Is there a link between heightened flower pesticide exposure and higher blood pressure in children?

An image of rose crops to illiustrate the concept of flower pesticide exposure and the potential link to higher blood pressure in children
©iStock/Anna Klimenko

Heightened pesticide spraying has been associated with higher flower pesticide exposure and higher blood pressure in children.

A study of boys and girls living near flower crops in Ecuador has found higher blood pressure and pesticide exposures in children associated with heightened pesticide spraying around the Mother’s Day flower harvest period.

Ecuador is one of the largest growers of commercial flowers in the world. It has significant rose exports to North America, Europe and Asia, which rely on insecticides, fungicides and other pesticides to produce.

Exposure to pesticides near agricultural environments

Researchers assessed 313 boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 9 residing in floricultural communities in Ecuador, up to one hundred days after the Mother’s Day harvest, as part of a long-term environmental pollutants and child development study.

The first author and assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine, Jose R. Suarez, MD, PhD, commented: “These findings are noteworthy in that this is the first study to describe that pesticide spray seasons not only can increase the exposure to pesticides of children living near agriculture, but can increase their blood pressures and overall risk for hypertension.”

Suarez explained: “We observed that children examined sooner after the Mother’s Day harvest had higher pesticide exposures and higher systolic and diastolic blood pressures compared to children examined later. In addition, 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.”

The importance of reducing childrens’ flower pesticide exposure

Suarez concluded: “These new findings build upon a growing number of studies describing that pesticide spray seasons may be affecting the development of children living near agricultural spray sites. They highlight the importance of reducing the exposures to pesticides of children and families living near agriculture.”

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