Research Projects



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Currentright arrow Completedright arrow


Currentright arrow Completedright arrow

Pesticide Exposure and Neuropsychological Effects in Children

Prenatal and childhood pesticide exposure has been associated with neurodevelopmental disabilities in a number of studies in low-income countries and more recently in the U.S. Only a few studies have been conducted in children with chronic low-level exposure as may be typical for New Zealand. Given New Zealand’s large agricultural industry and extensive mixed agricultural land use pattern, pesticide exposure is likely to be widespread.

We are conducting the first study on pesticide exposure and neurodevelopmental effects in New Zealand. We are conducting a questionnaire survey of 300 farmers’ children, 300 rural non-farmers’ children and 300 urban children. In randomly selected subgroups (150 in each group of children) we will conduct detailed exposure measurements and objective neuropsychological testing. This study will assess the extent of neurodevelopmental health effects related to pesticide exposure in New Zealand children, and will enable the development of preventive interventions.

The study aims to assess:

  1. the level and extent of exposure to neurotoxic pesticides in New Zealand children;
  2. key exposure determinants;
  3. whether these exposures are associated with neuropsychological outcomes;
  4. whether these associations show a dose-response relationship; and
  5. whether these associations are detectable in all subgroups of children (farm, rural non-farm, and urban).

The overall aim of the study is to contribute to the development of improved control options to reduce pesticide exposures and neurotoxic effects in children.

Data collection has now been completed.

December 2013


  • Janet Leathem
  • School of Psychology, Massey University, NZ.
  • Jordi Sunya
  • Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, Barcelona, Spain.
  • Jochen Mueller
  • National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology, University of Queensland, Australia.
  • Brenda Eskenazi
  • Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH), University of California, USA
  • Kathryn McLennan
  • School of Psychology, Massey University, NZ.


  • Health Research Council of New Zealand