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Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2004 Jan;77(1):67-72. Epub 2003 Oct 9.

Current internal exposure to pesticides in children and adolescents in Germany: urinary levels of metabolites of pyrethroid and organophosphorus insecticides.

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Public Health Department, Environmental Medicine and Hygiene, Braubachstrasse 18-22, 60311 Frankfurt, Germany.



Pesticides are widely used throughout the world, in agriculture to protect crops and in public health to control diseases transmitted by vectors or intermediate hosts. After the prohibition of organochlorines such as DDT, today, mainly pyrethroids and organophosphorus insecticides are used. Whereas many studies have been published on background exposure of the population to organochlorines, data on internal exposure of the population to pyrethroids and organophosphorus insecticides are scarce. Here, we report on internal exposure of children and young people, in an urban area in Germany, to pyrethroids and organophosphorus acids, assessed by the analysis of urinary levels of their corresponding specific metabolites.


Approximately 673 children and adolescents took part in this voluntary investigation, including 331 children <6 years of age. Their parents stated that they and their children had never used pyrethroids or organophosphorus acids in their homes or for medical reasons. We analysed their spot urine samples for six metabolites of organophosphorus insecticides [dimethyl-phosphate (DMP), diethyl-phosphate (DEP), dimethyl-thiophosphate (DMTP), diethyl-thiophosphate (DETP), dimethyl-dithiophosphate (DMDTP) and diethyl-dithiophosphate (DEDTP)] and for four metabolites of pyrethroids [cis-3-(2,2-dibromo-vinyl)-2,2-dimethyl-cyclopropane carboxylic acid (Br2CA), cis-3-(2,2-dichloro-vinyl)-2,2-dimethyl-cyclopropane carboxylic acid (cis-Cl2-CA ), trans-3-(2,2-dichloro-vinyl)-2,2-dimethyl-cyclopropane carboxylic acid (trans-Cl2-CA) and 4-fluoro-3-phenoxy-benzoic acid (F-PBA)] using gas chromatographic methods with mass-selective detection. The limit of detection was 0.1-0.2 microg/l for pyrethroid metabolites and 1 microg/l for metabolites of organophosphorus acids; in DMP it was 5 microg/l.


The 95th percentiles of the urinary metabolite concentrations were, in microgrammes per litre, DMP 158, DMTP 180, DMDTP 12, DEP 17, DETP 8, DEDTP <1; Br2CA 0.30, cis-Cl2-CA 0.44, trans-Cl2-CA 1.22, F-PBA 0.30. There were no correlations between urinary metabolite levels and the age of the children.


Current background levels of internal exposure to pyrethroids and organophosphorus insecticides in children and adolescents in Germany are shown. Exposure to these substances in the general population is thought to occur mainly via residues in the diet. The level of background internal pyrethroid exposure in the children is orders of magnitude lower than the corresponding acceptable daily intake (ADI) values published, but the level of internal organophosphate exposure may reach and even exceed ADI values. This observation demands further investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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