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Environ Health Perspect. 1996 Mar;104 Suppl 1:97-106.

Pesticides: an important but underused model for the environmental health sciences.

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  • 1Department of Toxicology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh 27695, USA. Ernest_Hodgson@ncsu.edu


Pesticides are high-volume, widely used, environmental chemicals and there is continuous debate concerning their possible role in many chronic human health effects. Because of their known structures, known rates of application, and the presence of a large occupationally exposed population, they are not only important in their own right but are ideal models for the effects of environmental chemicals on the population in general. For reasons that are not always clear, this potential has not been realized. These exposed populations represent an underused asset in the study of the human health effects of environmental contaminants. Chronic effects thought to involve pesticides include carcinogenesis, neurotoxicity, and reproductive and development effects. In this paper we attempt to summarize this concern and, relying to a large extent on studies in our own laboratory, to indicate the importance and present status of studies of the mammalian metabolism of pesticides and indicate the need for further use of this model. Aspects considered include the role of pesticides as substrates for xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes such as cytochrome P450 and the flavin-containing monooxygenase and their role as inducers or inhibitors of metabolic enzymes. The interaction of pesticides with complex multienzyme pathways, the role of biological characteristics, particularly gender, in pesticide metabolism, and the special role of pesticides at portals of entry and in target tissues are also considered.

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