Pesticide urinary metabolite levels of children in eastern North Carolina farmworker households

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Aug;115(8):1254-60. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9975.


Background: In this investigation we documented the pesticide urinary metabolite levels of farmworker children in North Carolina, determined the number of different metabolites detected for each child, and delineated risk factors associated with the number of metabolites.

Methods: Urine samples were collected from 60 Latino farmworker children 1-6 years of age (34 female, 26 male). Interviews were completed by their mothers in Spanish. We analyzed urine samples for 14 pesticide metabolites, including the organophosphate pesticides chlorpyrifos, coumaphos, diazinon, isazaphos, malathion, pirimiphos, and parathion and its methyl counterpart; a common metabolite of at least 18 pyrethroid insecticides; the repellent DEET; and the herbicides 2,4,5-trichlorphenoxyacetic acid, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, acetochlor, atrazine, and metolachlor. Predictors included measures of paraoccupational, residential, and environmental exposure, child characteristics, and mother characteristics.

Results: Thirteen metabolites were present in the urine samples. Organophosphate pesticide metabolites were detected in a substantial proportion of children, particularly metabolites of parathion/methyl parathion (90.0%; geometric mean 1.00 microg/L), chlorpyrifos/chlorpyrifos methyl (83.3%; geometric mean 1.92 microg/L), and diazinon (55.0%; geometric mean 10.56 microg/L). The number of metabolites detected ranged from 0 to 7, with a mode of 4 detected (28.3%). Boys, children living in rented housing, and children with mothers working part-time had more metabolites detected.

Conclusions: Children in farmworker homes experience multiple sources of pesticide exposure. Pesticides may remain in their environments for long periods. Environmental and occupational health changes are needed to address these exposures. Research is needed with more precise measures of exposure and on the health effects of concurrent exposure to multiple pesticides.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / urine
  • Female
  • Herbicides / urine*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Insect Repellents / urine
  • Insecticides / urine*
  • Male
  • North Carolina
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / urine


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Herbicides
  • Insect Repellents
  • Insecticides
  • Organophosphorus Compounds