You are here: Home Blog 2010 July 29 Exposure to Fungicides Linked with Nerve Damage

Exposure to Fungicides Linked with Nerve Damage

by aseligmann — last modified Jul 29, 2010 12:00 AM

Most researchers agree that high levels of exposure to certain pesticides damage nerves, but there has been more controversy about whether long-term moderate exposure to pesticides can damage our nervous system. A new review compiles research showing that this kind of exposure to insecticides, fungicides, and fumigants is linked with nerve damage. The researchers noted the links with fungicide use, as these were unexpected.


Most researchers agree that high levels of exposure to certain pesticides damage nerves, but there has been more controversy about whether long-term moderate exposure to pesticides can damage our nervous system. A new review compiles research showing that this kind of exposure to insecticides, fungicides, and fumigants is linked with nerve damage. The researchers noted the links with fungicide use, as these were unexpected.

How was the review conducted?

Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reviewed studies that looked for associations between chronic (long-term) pesticide exposure and various kinds of nervous system damage. They found 39 such studies, mostly of people who were exposed to pesticides at work. Most of the studies were published in the last 10 years, but the researchers used studies going back as far as 1965. The researchers also reviewed studies linking pesticide exposure with degenerative nervous system diseases, like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

What did the review find?

The review found that exposure to a variety of pesticides was linked with nerve damage. For fungicides, the review showed that people exposed through their work (mostly grape growers and vineyard workers) performed worse on a variety of tests of mental function. These included tests of memory, verbal fluency, and others. Fungicide exposure was also related to impaired nerve function in people who worked on bulb farms. A study of elderly people exposed to fungicides during their working lives (again, mostly grape growers and vineyard workers)  found that exposure increased their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The researchers concluded that "there is mounting evidence that chronic moderate pesticide exposure is neurotoxic."

Study summary and complete article: Kamel, F and J.A. Hoppin. 2004. Association of Pesticide Exposure with Neurologic Dysfunction and Disease. Environmental Health Perspectives 112(9):950-958