Project: Genotoxic evaluation in Bolivian populations exposed to mixtures of pesticides

In Bolivia, farmers have increased the use of pesticides to enter into a more competitive national as well as international market. There is little or no social protection which together leads to hazardous working conditions for the farmers. Exposure to pesticides thereby constitutes a major health risk for the Bolivian farmers.

Project description

To investigate the risk of the Bolivian population to induced genotoxic effects as a result of pesticide exposure different biomarkers of exposure and effect will be measured. The use of biomarkers will help us to evaluate potential exposures to pesticides as well as related effects, thus allowing for a more informed risk management and thereby protecting the human health. The overall aim of this project is to evaluate the correlation between exposure to pesticide mixtures and genotoxicity for the population in Bolivia. The specific aims are as follows:

  • Specific Aim 1: to characterize the lifestyle factors, handling and exposure to pesticides in a Bolivian population.
  • Specific Aim 2: to investigate the correlation between exposure to pesticides, genetic susceptibility and genotoxic effects in a Bolivian population.
  • Specific Aim 3: to determine possible mixture effects for genotoxic damage of commonly used pesticides in Bolivia

We are using a cross-sectional study design. The study is based on populations in three different communities of Bolivia; Sapahaqui, Villa Bolivar and Villa 14 de Septiembre. These communities belong to three different ecological niches that span different geographical altitudes and climate zones. The study population, in total 300, includes both sprayers (farmers and farm workers) and non-sprayers (teachers, drivers, nurses, etc.) and men and women age 17-70. To evaluate and study the correlation between exposure to pesticides and risk of developing genotoxic effects we will use questionnaire information and blood and urine analysis. Furthermore, underlying mechanisms and possible mixture effects of commonly used pesticides will be investigated in vitro employing human cell lines.

The project is a collaboration with Noemi Tirado at the Genetic Institute of the Medical Faculty at Mayor de San Andrés University, La Paz Bolivia.

This project is a part of the ToxBol network – a network addressing environment and health issues in Bolivia.

More information about the project and the challenges with pesticides in Bolivia, including Jessika Barron Cuenca and Noemi Tirado:

Contact persons


  • SIDA
  • Swedish research council VR - Research Links


In vitro cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of single and combined pesticides used by Bolivian farmers.
Barrón Cuenca J, de Oliveira Galvão MF, Ünlü Endirlik B, Tirado N, Dreij K
Environ Mol Mutagen 2022 Jan;63(1):4-17

Increased levels of genotoxic damage in a Bolivian agricultural population exposed to mixtures of pesticides.
Barrón Cuenca J, Tirado N, Barral J, Ali I, Levi M, Stenius U, Berglund M, Dreij K
Sci Total Environ 2019 Dec;695():133942

Pesticide exposure among Bolivian farmers: associations between worker protection and exposure biomarkers.
Barrón Cuenca J, Tirado N, Vikström M, Lindh CH, Stenius U, Leander K, Berglund M, Dreij K
J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 2020 Jul;30(4):730-742

Conference abstracts

Genotoxic damage in a Bolivian agricultural population exposed to a mixture of pesticides.
J Barrón, N Tirado, J Barral, C Lindh, U Stenius, M Berglund, K Dreij
Environ. Epidemiol. 2019 Oct;3, 22-23. ISEE 2019, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Genotoxic damage among Bolivian farmers exposed to a complex mixture of pesticides.
Barron Cuenca J, Tirado N, Barral J, Almaraz P, Stenius U, Berglund M, Dreij K
Toxicol. Lett. 2018 Oct;295(S1):S153. Eurotox 2018, Brussels, Belgium.

Pesticide exposure and genotoxic effects among Bolivian farmers: A cross-sectional study.
Barron Cuenca J, Tirado N, Lindh C, Berglund M, Dreij K
Toxicol. Lett. 2017 Oct;280(S1):S246. Eurotox 2017, Bratislava, Slovak Republic.

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