Pesticide Exposure and Stunting among Children in Agricultural Areas

Apoina Kartini, Hertanto W Subagio, Suharyo Hadisaputro, Martha I Kartasurya, Suhartono Suhartono, Budiyono Budiyono


Background: The prevalence of growth disorders among school-aged children in Indonesia is high (30.7%). Pesticides have been massively used in Indonesian agricultural areas.

Objective: To determine if exposure to pesticides is associated with stunting among children in agricultural areas.

Methods: This case-control study included 160 children (48 cases and 112 controls) aged 8–12 years. Exposure to pesticides was measured based on the history of the exposure since perinatal period, infancy, and childhood of the participants. Stunting was determined as a height for age z-score (HAZ) < ‑2 SD. Other variables measured were levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), hemoglobin, zinc, albumin, nutrient adequacy level (energy and protein), and history of infection, low-birth weight (LBW), and mother's height.

Results: There were no significant difference between the cases and controls in terms of in the baseline characteristics, except for the median IGF-1 level; it was significantly (p<0.001) lower in the cases (66.73 ng/mL) than the controls (112.57 ng/mL). High level of pesticide exposure (p=0.029) and low IGF-1 levels (p<0.001) were significantly associated with stunting. After adjusting for confounding variables, these variables were found to be independent risk factors for stunting in children (aOR 3.90, 95% CI 1.15 to 13.26; and aOR 8.35, 95% CI 3.65 to 19.14, respectively).

Conclusion: Pesticide exposure could be a risk factor for the occurrence of growth disorders in children living in agricultural areas. Necessary actions should be taken to protect children living in agricultural areas from exposure to pesticides.


Pesticides; Growth disorders; Child; Agriculture

doi: 10.15171/ijoem.2019.1428

 pISSN: 2008-6520
 eISSN: 2008-6814

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