The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

South Texas Environmental Education and Research UTRGV School of Medicine

Research

STEER medical students meeting with local biologist

PESTICIDE EXPOSURE

Pesticide exposures are of particular concern along the U.S.-Mexico border because of the extensive year-round use of agricultural pesticides, coupled with poor housing often located near fields. In addition, parents who work in the fields may carry residues home on their clothing. A variety of factors may exacerbate these effects, including poverty, calorie-dense nutrition-poor diets and poor sanitation. We elected to study the blood of twenty-five Hispanic women in their third trimester of pregnancy, along with the homes in which they live.

Participants answered questions concerning their health, history of pesticide use and demographics. Because of their close interactions, questions were also asked regarding other people within the same household. A dust sample was collected from each woman’s home and analyzed for approximately forty-five pesticides. In addition, an air sample was collected in each home over a two week period.

We found that most pest control was performed either by the woman herself or by someone living with her. Aerosol sprays were the most common method, followed by bait traps, and sticky traps. By far, most methods were used for cockroach control, followed by rodent and ant control. None of the women had an abnormally high level of any heavy metal, and there was no correlation between pesticide exposure and antioxidant status. Antioxidant levels for the women appeared to vary randomly between first and second visits, with no discernible pattern.