Cognitive decline, mortality, and organophosphorus exposure in aging Mexican Americans

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Cognitive impairment is a major health concern among older Mexican Americans, associated with significant morbidity and mortality, and may be influenced by environmental exposures.


To investigate whether agricultural based ambient organophosphorus (OP) exposure influences 1) the rate of cognitive decline and mortality and 2) whether these associations are mediated through metabolic or inflammatory biomarkers.


In a subset of older Mexican Americans from the Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging (n = 430), who completed modified mini-mental state exams (3MSE) up to 7 times (1998–2007), we examined the relationship between estimated ambient OP exposures and cognitive decline (linear repeated measures model) and time to dementia or being cognitively impaired but not demented (CIND) and time to mortality (cox proportional hazards model). We then explored metabolic and inflammatory biomarkers as potential mediators of these relationships (additive hazards mediation). OP exposures at residential addresses were estimated with a geographic information system (GIS) based exposure assessment tool.


Participants with high OP exposure in the five years prior to baseline experienced faster cognitive decline (β = 0.038, p = 0.02) and higher mortality over follow-up (HR = 1.91, 95% CI = 1.12, 3.26). The direct effect of OP exposure was estimated at 241 (95% CI = 27–455) additional deaths per 100,000 person-years, and the proportion mediated through the metabolic hormone adiponectin was estimated to be 4% 1.5–19.2). No other biomarkers were associated with OP exposure.


Our study provides support for the involvement of OP pesticides in cognitive decline and mortality among older Mexican Americans, possibly through biologic pathways involving adiponectin.

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