Highly hazardous pesticides used in Mother's Day roses may increase high blood pressure (hypertension) risk in children, reports a new study.
In a study published in the journal Environmental Research, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found higher blood pressure and pesticide exposures in children associated with a heightened pesticide spraying period around the Mother's Day flower harvest. This study involved boys and girls living near flower crops in Ecuador.
Mother's Day is celebrated in May in most of the world and is a holiday with one of the highest sales of flowers. Ecuador is among the largest commercial flower growers in the world, with significant rose exports to North America, Europe, and Asia. Commercial rose production relies on the use of insecticides, fungicides, and other pest controls, but little is known about their human health effects.
A team of researchers assessed 313 boys and girls, ages 4 to 9, residing in floricultural communities in Ecuador. The children were examined up to 100 days after the Mother's Day harvest. The analyses are part of a long-term study of environmental pollutants and child development in Ecuador, directed by Suarez.
"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."
Research regarding the effects of pesticides on the cardiovascular system is limited, but Suarez said there is some evidence that insecticides, such as organophosphates, can increase blood pressure. Organophosphates and several other classes of insecticides and fungicides are commonly used to treat flowers for pests before export.
In a previous study, Suarez and colleagues had reported that children examined sooner after the harvest displayed lower performances in tasks of attention, self-control, visuospatial processing and sensorimotor than children examined later.
"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," said Suarez. "They highlight the importance of reducing the exposures to pesticides of children and families living near agriculture."