May 23 (UPI) -- A popular holiday may be contributing to cardiovascular risk for children, new research shows.
Elevated pesticide use to produce flowers during the Mother's Day harvest has been linked to high blood pressure in children living near the flower fields in Ecuador, according to a study published Tuesday in Environmental Research.
"These findings are noteworthy in that this is the first study to describe that pesticide spray seasons not only can increase the exposure to pesticides of children living near agriculture but can increase their blood pressures and overall risk for hypertension," Jose R. Suarez, a researcher at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and the study's first author, said in a news release.
Around the world, Mothers Day generates some of the highest flower sales of the year. Ecuador is one of the world's largest commercial growers of flowers.
For the study, the researchers examined more than 300 boys and girls, ages 4 to 9, living in the floricultural areas of Ecuador. They analyzed the children up to 100 days following the Mother's Day harvest, with a goal of exploring the effects of environmental pollutants on child development.
Commercial rose producers use insecticides, fungicides and organophosphates to protect the plants from pests but are unaware of those chemical's side effects.
According to the National Institutes of Health, organophosphates have been linked to hypertension, as well as various nervous system conditions.
Along with developing high blood pressure, the children in the study examined right after the harvest showed lower attention to detail, self-control, visuospatial processing and sensorimotor function than those analyzed well after.
"We observed that children examined sooner after the Mother's Day harvest had higher pesticide exposures and higher systolic and diastolic blood pressures compared to children examined later," Suarez said. "In addition, children who were examined within 81 days after the harvest were three times more likely to have hypertension than children examined between 91 and 100 days."
Suarez added, "These new findings build upon a growing number of studies describing that pesticide spray seasons may be affecting the development of children living near agricultural spray sites. They highlight the importance of reducing the exposure to pesticides of children and families living near agriculture."