Neurobehavioral problems following low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides: A systematic and meta-analytic review
Meta-analysis was carried out to determine the neurotoxic effects of long-term exposure to low levels of organophosphates (OPs) in occupational settings. Concern about the effects of OPs on human health has been growing as they are increasingly used throughout the world for a variety of agricultural, industrial and domestic purposes. The neurotoxic effects of acute poisoning are well established but the possibility that low-level exposure causes ill health is controversial. It is important to get a clear answer to this question as more individuals are at risk of low-level exposure than acute poisoning. Although a number of reviews on this topic have been published in the past, authors have come to conflicting conclusions. To date, none of these reviews have attempted quantitative evaluation of study findings using meta-analysis. This paper reviews the available evidence concerning the neurotoxicity of low-level occupational exposure to OPs and goes on to report the results of a meta-analysis of 14 studies which fulfilled criteria for this type of statistical analysis (means and standard deviations of dependant variables reported). Data were assimilated from more than 1600 participants. The majority of well designed studies found a significant association between low-level exposure to OPs and impaired neurobehavioral function which is consistent, small to moderate in magnitude and concerned primarily with cognitive functions such as psychomotor speed, executive function, visuospatial ability, working and visual memory. Unresolved issues in the literature which should become the focus of further studies are highlighted and discussed.