Determinants of butyrylcholinesterase inhibition among agricultural pesticide handlers in Washington State: an update

Jennifer E Krenz, Jonathan N Hofmann, Theresa R Smith, Rad N Cunningham, Richard A Fenske, Christopher D Simpson, Matthew Keifer

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29 Citations (SciVal)


OBJECTIVES: Organophosphate (OP) and N-methyl-carbamate (CB) insecticides are used widely in agriculture to manage insect pests of economic importance. Agricultural workers are more likely to suffer exposure because of the widespread use of OP/CBs in agriculture, and pesticide-related illnesses among handlers may be more severe when compared to other farm workers. The goal of this study was to identify occupational and personal characteristics associated with butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE) inhibition in participants recruited from the Washington State Cholinesterase Monitoring Program from 2006 to 2011.

METHODS: We conducted a longitudinal study among agricultural pesticide handlers in Washington State during the OP/CB spray season (March-July) over a 6-year period (2006-2011). Linear mixed effects regression models were used to evaluate BuChE inhibition in relation to self-reported occupational and personal characteristics.

RESULTS: Relative to pre-season baseline levels, the mean decrease in BuChE activity during the OP/CB spray season over all years of the study period was 3.77% (P < 0.001). Greater BuChE inhibition was observed among handlers who reported using multiple OP/CBs (β = -2.70, P = 0.045), mixed or loaded OP/CBs (β = -3.97, P = 0.002), did not store personal protective equipment (PPE) in a locker at work (β = -3.4, P = 0.014), or did not wear chemical-resistant boots (β = -16.6, P < 0.001).

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: The Washington State Cholinesterase Monitoring Program has provided a valuable opportunity to evaluate potential sources of OP/CB exposure among agricultural pesticide handlers. Several previously reported associations were confirmed in the current analysis, which included a larger number of pesticide handlers enrolled over a longer time period. The use of multiple OP/CBs and mixing/loading activities were significant risk factors, and the use of chemical-resistant boots and lockers for PPE storage were protective factors. Our findings point toward logical interventions to reduce exposure such as the implementation of engineering controls for mixing/loading activities, requirements for appropriate footwear, and the regular use of lockers for PPE storage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-40
Number of pages16
JournalThe Annals of Occupational Hygiene
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


  • agriculture
  • biological monitoring
  • cholinesterase
  • determinants of exposure
  • occupational exposure
  • organophosphorus compounds
  • pesticide
  • pesticide handler


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