The impact of aerial application of organophosphates on the cholinesterase levels of rural residents in the Vaalharts district, Northern Cape Province, South Africa
Occupational and Environmental Health Research Unit, Department of Public Health, Medical School, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road, Observatory, 7925 Cape Town, South Africa
A cluster of Guillaine-Barre syndrome cases in the Vaalharts region, South Africa prompted an investigation of the impact of aerial organophosphate spraying on cholinesterase levels of residents in the region. A prospective study of cholinesterase levels among residents and workers in the area and a control area was performed. Standardized red blood cell cholinesterase levels amongst participants were monitored before (round 1), during (round 2), and after (round 3) the 1996/1997 aerial spraying season. Participants were assigned environmental exposure categories based on the time since (within 10 or 30 days) and distance from (on farm, on neighboring farm, <10 km from farm) aerial pesticide application. There were 342 participants in round 1, of whom 78% participated in round 2, 62% in round 3, and 56% in all three rounds. There was an increase in cholinesterase levels in round 2 (mean increase=5.96±6.25 IU/g hemoglobin) and then a decrease in round 3 (6.17±6.51), significantly associated with environmental exposure (participants living on farm or neighboring farm and <10 km from spraying area) controlling for age, gender, alcohol dependence, and usual and recent domestic and occupational pesticide use (e.g., for round 2-round 1 cholinesterase differences, over(β, ^) (exposed group relative to unexposed)=5.72±1.21 IU/g hemoglobin, P = 0.000, R2 = 0.27, n = 171). The results show a shift in cholinesterase levels associated with residence in the spraying area, but in the direction opposite to that expected from the spraying of pesticides. Seasonal fluctuations in ambient temperature during the study may have influenced the results. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
organophosphate; pesticide; enzyme activity; farm; organophosphate; rural society; adult; alcoholism; article; cholinesterase blood level; controlled study; environmental exposure; environmental temperature; erythrocyte; female; hemoglobin blood level; human; male; neurotoxicity; priority journal; rural area; season; sex difference; South Africa; Adult; Cholinesterases; Environmental Exposure; Erythrocytes; Female; Geography; Guillain-Barre Syndrome; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; Pesticides; Phosphoric Acid Esters; Prospective Studies; Rural Population; South Africa; Africa; Cape Province; South Africa; Southern Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa