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Effects of Pesticide Exposure on Postural Control

A farmer spreading pesticide (Image from Pixabay)

Farmer spreading pesticide
A farmer spreading pesticide (Image from Pixabay)

Goals & Objectives

Falls are a significant cause of occupational morbidity and mortality. Within the agricultural sector specifically, occupational falls are prevalent both in the US and internationally.  Indeed, falls appear to be a leading cause of farm injuries, accounting for 20-33% of all injuries across all ages.

Prior work indicates that pesticide exposure can have detrimental effects on several of the functions related to postural control, for example psychomotor processing speed and motor performance. Such effects imply that pesticide exposure will also adversely affect postural control, and thereby contribute to an increase in fall risks. Further, existing evidence indicates compromised sensorimotor function or impaired postural control following exposure to organic solvents and pyridostigmine bromide. Organophosphate (OP) exposure can lead to sensory neuropathy, and more direct evidence suggests that such exposure can adversely affect postural control. Limited evidence also exists regarding deleterious effects of carbamate exposure.

The current project is being conducted by Virginia Tech, as a sub-contract to a parent grant at Wake Forest University Medical Center (PI:  Tom Arcury). It has a Specific Aim to compare measures of postural control between Latino migrant and seasonal farmworkers who are exposed to agricultural pesticides and a control group of Latino manual workers who are not exposed to these pesticides. The central hypothesis is that Latino workers exposed to organophosphorous and carbamate insecticides will exhibit poorer postural control, as indicated by measures of postural sway obtained from static posturography.

Approach & Activities

Measures of postural control will be obtained during brief trials of quiet upright standing, and using a portable force platform. Data from these trials will be analyzed to assess the central hypothesis, and secondary exploratory analyses will compare these results with data obtained from other investigators involved in the parent grant.

PI: Maury Nussbaum

Co-I: Michael Madigan, Sunwook Kim


  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIMHS); subcontract to Wake Forest University School of Medicine