Evidence for genotoxicity of pesticides in pesticide applicators: a review

Mutagenesis. 2006 Mar;21(2):93-103. doi: 10.1093/mutage/gel011. Epub 2006 Mar 27.


A systematic review of the literature has been conducted and studies reporting investigations of genotoxicity biomarkers in pesticide workers have been assessed with view to establishing whether there was evidence for any risk to those using pesticides approved in the United Kingdom. Each of the studies was evaluated using a set of criteria drawn up by members of the UK Committee of Mutagenicity based upon the guidelines proposed by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) working group [R. J. Albertini, D. Anderson, G. R. Douglas, L. Hagmar, K. Hemminki, F. Merlo, A. T. Natarajan, H. Norppa, D. E. Shuker, R. Tice, M. D. Waters and A. Aitio (2000) Mutat. Res., 463, 111-172]; 24 out of 70 studies met the criteria for inclusion in the substantive evaluation. Positive findings were compared with occupational practices and evidence of exposure to specific pesticides with view to developing hypotheses for further consideration. Seventeen of the 24 studies reported positive findings, although in the majority of these the magnitude of increase was small. There was some limited evidence that the use of benzimidazoles was more consistently associated with positive findings. However, limitations in the data, particularly evidence of exposure, did not allow definitive conclusions to be drawn. Also, it was noted that the use (or not) of personal protective equipment (PPE) was not well documented and in the few studies in which its use was reported, the findings were more likely to be positive in the absence of PPE usage. An independent epidemiological review concluded that all studies were of limited design, particularly with regards to study size, the assessment of subject selection and potential recruitment bias. Variance in genotoxicity indices in the control population and a lack of understanding of the factors influencing this variability complicate attempts to characterize positive responses. More substantive data are needed in this respect so that the significance of relatively small increases in biomonitoring indices can be accurately assessed. Once these data are available, a study in workers using benzimidazoles would be appropriate.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Benzimidazoles / toxicity
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Herbicides
  • Humans
  • Mutagens
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Protective Devices


  • Benzimidazoles
  • Herbicides
  • Mutagens
  • Pesticides
  • benzimidazole