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- Profile of the youth self-report among south Texas adolescents and the potential relationship to pesticide exposure
- The potential for human exposure to pesticides exists particularly for agricultural workers (i.e. migrant workers) and individuals within close proximity to pesticide-sprayed crops (i.e. those living on or near agricultural farms). Children, through biology and behavior, may be more susceptible and vulnerable to exposure to pesticides than adults. The purpose of this study was to examine young populations particularly at-risk for occupational or accidental exposure to pesticides and determine associated behavioral, emotional, and physical symptoms. A total of 444 students from two South Texas school districts completed questionnaires assessing level of risk of exposure to pesticides and were categorized into at-risk and low risk categories. Physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms were obtained using the Youth Self-Report. Children who were at-risk demonstrated significantly higher scores on the Youth Self-Report (YSR) in the areas of anxious/depressed, attention problems, social problems, somatic complaints, thought problems, withdrawal, internalizing behaviors, and total problem behaviors than children who were at lower risk of pesticide exposure. Odds ratios were obtained and suggested that children in the at-risk category were more five times more likely to score in the clinically significant range on the Attention Problems subscale, and three times more likely to score in the clinically significant range on the Internalizing behavior composite. These findings suggest that children who may be at higher risk for pesticide exposure may also be at higher risk for physical, behavioral, and emotional problems compared to children who are at lower risk. This information is intended to benefit schools and health care professionals who work with rural or migrant populations involved in the agricultural trade. Future research will be needed to assess through biomarkers the degree of measurable pesticide exposure in comparison to parent reports, teacher reports, school achievement, neuropsychological testing, and medical records.