-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Being exposed to
pesticides over a long period of time might be linked to dementia,
a new study of agricultural workers suggests.
The research effort included 614 vineyard workers in France who
were in their 40s and 50s and had worked for at least 20 years in
the agricultural sector. Their intellectual abilities were assessed
twice, using nine tests designed to measure memory and recall,
language retrieval, verbal skills and reaction time.
The workers' exposure to pesticides during the six-year span of
the study varied. About 20 percent were never exposed to pesticides
and more than half had been directly exposed, which included mixing
or applying pesticides and cleaning or repairing spraying
equipment. The rest had either been indirectly exposed by coming
into contact with treated plants or possibly indirectly exposed
through their work in buildings, offices, cellars and the like.
On seven of the nine tests, workers who had been exposed to
pesticides were most likely to do worse the second time they were
tested, the researchers found. The study also reported that
pesticide-exposed workers were up to five times more likely than
the others to have lower test scores on both occasions and were
twice as likely to show a drop of two points in the Mini Mental
State Examination (MMSE), which tests cognitive functioning and is
frequently used to determine if a person has dementia.
The decline in MMSE score "is particularly striking in view of
the short duration of follow-up and the relatively young age of the
participants," Isabelle Baldi, of the Institute de Sante Publique
d'Epidemiologie et de Developpement in Bordeaux, France, and
colleagues wrote in the report published in the Dec. 2 online
Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
"The mild [cognitive] impairment we observed raises the question of the potentially higher risks of injury in this population and also of possible evolution towards neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease or other dementias," the study authors added.
The U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has
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