Association of pesticide exposure with neurobehavioral outcomes among avocado farmworkers in Mexico

Maria José Rosa, Cynthia Armendáriz-Arnez, Esteve Gudayol-Ferré, Manuela Prehn, Samuel Fuhrimann, Brenda Eskenazi, Christian H. Lindh, Ana M. Mora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and aim: To date, few studies have focused on the health effects of pesticide exposure among avocado farmworkers. We examined the association of exposure to insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides with cognitive and mental health outcomes among these avocado workers from Michoacan, Mexico. Materials and methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of 105 avocado farmworkers between May and August 2021. We collected data on self-reported pesticide use during the 12 months prior to the baseline survey and estimated annual exposure-intensity scores (EIS) using a semi-quantitative exposure algorithm. We calculated specific gravity adjusted average concentrations of 12 insecticide, fungicide, or herbicide metabolites measured in urine samples collected during two study visits (8–10 weeks apart). We assessed participants’ cognitive function and psychological distress using the NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery and the Brief Symptom Inventory 18 (BSI-18), respectively. We examined individual associations of EIS and urinary pesticide metabolites with neurobehavioral outcomes using generalized linear regression models. We also implemented Bayesian Weighted Quantile Sum (BWQS) regression to evaluate the association between a pesticide metabolite mixture and neurobehavioral outcomes. Results: In individual models, after adjusting for multiple comparisons, higher concentrations of hydroxy-tebuconazole (OH-TEB, metabolite of fungicide tebuconazole) were associated with higher anxiety (IRR per two-fold increase in concentrations = 1.26, 95% CI:1.08, 1.48) and Global Severity Index (GSI) (IRR = 1.89, 95% CI:1.36, 2.75) scores, whereas higher concentrations of 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol (TCPy, metabolite of chlorpyrifos) were associated with lower GSI scores (IRR = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.56, 0.85). In BWQS analyses, we found evidence of a mixture association of urinary pesticide metabolites with higher anxiety (IRR = 1.72, 95% CrI: 1.12, 2.55), depression (IRR = 4.60, 95% CrI: 2.19, 9.43), and GSI (IRR = 1.99, 95% CrI: 1.39, 2.79) scores. OH-TEB and hydroxy-thiabendazole (metabolite of fungicide thiabendazole) combined contributed 54%, 40%, and 54% to the mixture effect in the anxiety symptoms, depression symptoms, and overall psychological distress models, respectively. Conclusions: We found that exposure to tebuconazole and thiabendazole, fungicides whose effects have been rarely studied in humans, may be associated with increased psychological distress among avocado farmworkers. We also observed that exposure to chlorpyrifos may be associated with decreased psychological distress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114322
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Anxiety
  • Cognition
  • Depression
  • Farmworker health
  • Fungicides
  • Mexico
  • Pesticides


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