Biomonitoring of Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) Activity among Smallholder Horticultural Farmers Occupationally Exposed to Mixtures of Pesticides in Tanzania

Jones A. Kapeleka, Elingarami Sauli, Omowunmi Sadik, Patrick A. Ndakidemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Biomonitoring of pesticides exposure has currently become a matter of great public concern due to the potential health effects of pesticides. This study assessed levels of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition and associated health effects in uncontrolled smallholder farming systems in rural Tanzania. A cross-sectional study was conducted of 90 exposed farmers and 61 nonexposed controls from horticultural zones. A structured questionnaire was administered, and a capillary blood sample of 10 μl was used to measure AChE activity using an Erythrocyte Acetylcholinesterase Test Mate Photometric Analyzer kit (Model 400). A multiple logistic regression model was used to investigate determinants of pesticide exposure. The study revealed that smallholder farmers are occupationally exposed to pesticides. Exposed farmers had significantly lower AChE levels. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) did not significantly reduce the likelihood of AChE inhibition. Women, younger and older farmers, and underweight, overweight, and obese farmers were at increased risk of AChE inhibition. Increase in age (10 years) increased likelihood of AChE inhibition by 6.7%, while decrease in BMI increased likelihood of AChE inhibition by 86.7% while increased pesticides contact hours increased risk of having lower AChE at about 3 times. The number of exposure symptoms (14.10 ± 7.70) was higher in exposed farmers than unexposed. Self-reported symptoms are confirmed to correlate to lower AChE. Prevalence of tiredness (71.6% against 15.5%), fatigue (64.8% against 27.6%), soreness in joints (59.1% against 20.7%), thirst (52.3% against 12.1%), skin irritation (52.1% against 17.2%), salivation and abdominal pain (50% against 8.6% and 31.0%, respectively), muscle weakness (47.7% against 24.1%), and memory loss (47.7% against and 29.3%) differed significantly between exposed and control. This study provides useful information regarding the level of occupational and environmental exposure to pesticides in smallholder horticultural production systems. Pesticides use needs to be controlled at farm level by developing pesticides monitoring and surveillance systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3084501
JournalJournal of Environmental and Public Health
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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