Magnitude of behavioral deficits varies with job-related chlorpyrifos exposure levels among Egyptian pesticide workers

W. Kent Anger, Fayssal M. Farahat, Pamela J. Lein, Michael R. Lasarev, James R. Olson, Taghreed M. Farahat, Diane S. Rohlman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Chronic occupational exposure to organophosphorus pesticides (OPs) is consistently associated with deficits on behavioral tests when compared to unexposed comparison groups. However, a dose-response relationship has yet to be established, leading some to doubt an association between occupational OP exposure and behavioral deficits. Pesticide application teams in Egypt who are primarily exposed to one OP, chlorpyrifos (CPF), were recruited into a field assessment. Trail Making A and the more challenging Trail Making B tests were administered to 54 engineers (who supervise the pesticide application process, usually from the side of the field), 59 technicians (who guide the pesticide applicators in the field), 31 applicators (who mix and apply pesticides using knapsack sprayers), and 150 controls (who did not work in the fields) at two different times during the OP application season as well as immediately after applications had ended and 1.5 months later. All participants were males since only males work on pesticide application teams in Egypt. Urinary levels of 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol (TCPy), a specific metabolite of CPF, confirmed the pattern of lower to higher CPF exposures from engineers to technicians to applicators, and these were all greater than urinary metabolite levels in controls. A consistent relationship between job title and performance speed on the behavioral task was observed: Controls had the best (fastest) performance on Trail Making A and B tests throughout the application season, and applicators had significantly slower performance than engineers on Trail Making A (p = 0.015) and B (p = 0.003). However, individual urinary TCPy, blood acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE) levels did not predict individual performance. This study identifies a dose-related effect based on job title, which serves as a surrogate for chronic exposure in that differing job titles exhibit varying group exposure levels. The results establish that chronic occupational exposure to chlorpyrifos is neurotoxic and suggest that the classic biomarkers of recent CPF exposure are not predictive of chronic exposure effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-230
Number of pages15
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Chlorpyrifos
  • Dose response
  • Neurotoxicology
  • OP
  • Occupational exposure
  • Organophosphorus pesticide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology


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