Comparison of pesticide levels in carpet dust and self-reported pest treatment practices in four US sites

J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2004 Jan;14(1):74-83. doi: 10.1038/sj.jea.7500307.


Epidemiologic studies have used both questionnaires and carpet dust sampling to assess residential exposure to pesticides. The consistency of the information provided by these two approaches has not been explored. In a population-based case-control study of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, carpet dust samples were collected from the homes of 513 control subjects in Detroit, Iowa, Los Angeles, and Seattle. The samples were taken from used vacuum cleaner bags and analyzed for 30 pesticides. Interviewers queried subjects about the types of pests treated in their home using a detailed questionnaire accompanied by visual aids. Geographic variations in pesticide levels were generally consistent with geographic differences in pest treatment practices. Los Angeles residents reported the most treatment for crawling insects, fleas/ticks, and termites, and Los Angeles dust samples had the highest levels of propoxur, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, permethrin, and chlordane. Iowa had the most treatment for lawn/garden weeds, and also the highest levels of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and dicamba. Although Seattle had the highest proportion of subjects treating for lawn/garden insects, the lawn/garden insecticides were higher in other sites. Multivariate linear regression revealed several significant associations between the type of pest treated and dust levels of specific pesticides. The strongest associations were between termite treatment and chlordane, and flea/tick treatment and permethrin. Most of the significant associations were consistent with known uses of the pesticides; few expected associations were absent. The consistency between the questionnaire data and pesticide residues measured in dust lends credibility to both methods for assessing residential exposure to pesticides. The combined techniques appear promising for epidemiologic studies. Interviewing is the only way to assess pesticide exposures before current carpets were in place. Dust sampling provides an objective measure of specific compounds to which a person may have been exposed through personal use of a pesticide or by drift-in or track-in from outside, and avoids recall bias.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dust / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Female
  • Floors and Floorcoverings*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pest Control / methods*
  • Pest Control / standards
  • Pesticides / analysis*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States


  • Dust
  • Pesticides
  • Soil Pollutants