John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Variations in clinical symptoms and plasma cholinesterase activity in agricultural workers exposed to pesticides Volume 13, issue 1, Janvier-Février 2014


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1 Faculté de Médecine de Monastir
Laboratoire de biochimie
5019 – Monastir
2 Hôpital universitaire Fattouma Bourguiba de Monastir
Laboratoire de biochimie-toxicologie
5019 – Monastir
3 Faculté de Médecine de Monastir
Service de médecine du travail
5019 – Monastir
* Tirés à part
  • Key words: agricultural workers, butyrylcholinesterase, pesticides
  • DOI : 10.1684/ers.2013.0671
  • Page(s) : 60-6
  • Published in: 2014

The objective of this study is to examine variations in plasma cholinesterase activity (PChE) and their clinical manifestations in order to assess the chronic effects of occupational exposure to pesticides. The study involved 110 agricultural workers and 97 healthy control subjects from the Sahel region of Tunisia. Each individual underwent a clinical examination to look for functional symptoms related to chronic pesticide intoxication. PChE activity was determined by a kinetic method adapted to the Konelab 30 (Thermo Clinical LabsystemsTM). Neurological signs were the symptoms reported most often among workers, followed by musculoskeletal and dermatological symptoms; all are clinical manifestations potentially related to chronic pesticide exposure. A significant association was found between the neurological symptoms reported by workers and exposure to organophosphates (OP) or carbamates (CB) (p = 0.013). Mean PChE activity was significantly lower in workers than in controls (p < 0.001). Moreover, it was also significantly lower in workers exposed simultaneously to OP-CB mixtures than in those who used only OP (p = 0.030) or CB (p = 0.031). Decreased PChE activity was significantly associated with exposure to OP and/or CB (p < 0.001). The variation of PChE activity was also related to the duration of application and the chronicity of exposure. Thus, PChE activity is a useful effect biomarker of pesticide exposure. Nonetheless, its interpretation in agricultural workers must take other factors into consideration, especially the nature of the pesticides used and the duration and chronicity of exposure.