Study indicates hypertension in children exposed to flower pesticides

Children examined within 81 days after the harvest were three times more likely to have hypertension than children examined between 91 and 100 days

Researchers at the US's University of California San Diego School of Medicine studied the effect of exposure to flower pesticides on hypertension risk in over 300 children living near flower crops in Ecuador. Their findings revealed higher blood pressure and pesticide exposures in children associated with the heightened pesticide-spraying period around the Mother's Day flower harvest.

Together with Valentine's Day, Mother's Day is a prime flower-giving occasion. However, growing these floral "gifts," which criss-cross the world on journeys from farm to vase, often relies on pesticide use. The team of researchers studied the health of 313 children age four to nine living in flower-farming communities in Ecuador.

One of the largest commercial flower growers in the world, Ecuador exports significant quantities of roses to North America, Europe and Asia. Although commercial rose production regularly involves the use of insecticides, fungicides and other pest controls, little is known about the effects of these chemicals on human health, the news release notes.

While research on the effects of pesticides on the cardiovascular system is limited, first author Jose R. Suarez, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine, explains that there is some evidence that insecticides frequently used to treat flowers prior to export, such as organophosphates, can increase blood pressure.

Increased hypertension risk

The study, published in the journal, Environmental Research, examined the children over a period of 63 to 100 days after the Mother's Day harvest. The researchers found children examined sooner after the harvest -- which follows a heightened pesticide spraying period -- had higher pesticide exposure levels and higher systolic and diastolic blood pressures compared to children examined later.

"...Children who were examined within 81 days after the harvest were three times more likely to have hypertension than children examined between 91 and 100 days," explains Dr. Suarez. The scientist underlines that this is the first study to show that pesticide spraying seasons can increase pesticide exposure in children living in agricultural areas and can also increase their blood pressures and overall risk for hypertension.

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