Occupational and residential exposures to organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides in a rural setting


Organophosphate (OP) and pyrethroid pesticides (PYR) are extensively used in agriculture, resulting in higher exposures among farmworkers. The present study reports the occurrence of 8 urinary OP and PYR metabolites in a sample of farmworkers and residents from Sucs (n = 87), a rural township in North West Catalonia (Spain). The aim of the present study was to examine differences in urinary pesticide metabolite concentrations between occupationally-exposed (farmworkers; n = 45) and environmentally-exposed subjects (n = 42) and to assess the relationship between pesticide’s exposures and occupational activities in a real-case scenario. Six OP and two PYR metabolites have been investigated, urine samples were extracted using SPE extraction and analyzed by UPLC-MS/MS. Three OP metabolites were commonly detectable in urine, namely TCPY (metabolite of chlorpyrifos), PNP (parathion) and DEAMPY (pirimiphos). Regarding pyrethroids, the two analyzed metabolites, 3-PBA and 4F-3-PBA, were detected in a high proportion of urine samples. Differences in concentrations between both groups were statistically significant for TCPY and 4F-3-PBA (Mann-Whitney U Test for independent groups, p < 0.05). In the case of TCPY, the concentrations were higher among the farmworkers, which is consistent with their occupational activity. The small differences found in DEAMPY, PNP, 3-PBA or even the significant higher concentrations of 4F-3-PBA among rural population suggest a general exposure to these compounds, even in those who do not carry an occupational activity. Specific personal protective equipment (PPE) among farmworkers, such as the use of gloves and mask during mixing, showed a decrease in the exposure levels, although the differences were not statistically significant. However, a positive association was found between the use of a cap during mixing (for PNP and 3-PBA) and during application (only for 3-PBA). However, this piece of cloth is mainly used for sun protection, and when not cleaned after the handling of pesticides, it might represent a continuous source of exposure through dermal contact. Farmworkers using tractors with cabin had statistically significant lower concentrations of DEAMPY than those using a tractor without cabin. The previous results suggest that occupational protections should be encouraged among farmworkers and other potential workers handling with pesticides.

Environmental Research


  • Pesticides were analyzed in farmworkers and rural residents from Sucs (Catalonia).
  • Pyrethroids and organophosphate metabolites were commonly detectable in urine.
  • Farmworkers had higher pesticide levels due to occupationally exposures.
  • Use of personal protective equipment showed a decrease in the exposure levels.
  • The correct use of occupational protections are encouraged among farmworkers.