Neurobehavioural symptoms and acute pesticide poisoning: a cross-sectional study among male pesticide applicators selected from three commercial farming systems in Ethiopia

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To estimate prevalence of acute pesticide poisoning (APP) and its association with neurobehavioural symptoms in Ethiopian pesticide applicators.


We performed a cross-sectional survey among 256 pesticide applicators from small-scale irrigated farms, a large-scale open farm and large-scale greenhouses. APP was ascertained using a modified WHO case definition, and neurobehavioural symptoms were collected with a standardised questionnaire (Q16). Exposure to pesticides was estimated using detailed exposure algorithms specifically developed for Ethiopian farms. Multiple logistic regression models were used to estimate risk of APP and its association with neurobehavioural symptoms.


Overall APP prevalence was 16%. Working as an applicator in greenhouses was strongly associated with APP (OR 3.00, 95% CI 1.38 to 6.54). Estimated annual pesticide exposure was also associated with APP (OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.20). Longer duration of employment appeared to be negatively associated with APP. Having had an APP was strongly associated with reporting more neurobehavioural symptoms (OR 2.15, 95% CI 1.01 to 4.58) independent of cumulative pesticide exposure. Cumulative exposure to pesticides appeared to be associated with neurobehavioural symptoms among applicators without and with APP.


We showed a substantial prevalence of APP that differed between farming systems and was strongly associated with neurobehavioural symptoms. Intensity of exposure was also clearly associated with these symptoms. Reduction and control of occupational exposure to pesticides is urgently needed in Ethiopia.

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