Dietary intake and its contribution to longitudinal organophosphorus pesticide exposure in urban/suburban children

Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr;116(4):537-42. doi: 10.1289/ehp.10912.


Background: The widespread use of organophosphorus (OP) pesticides has led to frequent exposure in adults and children. Because such exposure may cause adverse health effects, particularly in children, the sources and patterns of exposure need to be studied further.

Objectives: We assessed young urban/suburban children's longitudinal exposure to OP pesticides in the Children's Pesticide Exposure Study (CPES) conducted in the greater Seattle, Washington, area, and used a novel study design that allowed us to determine the contribution of dietary intake to the overall OP pesticide exposure.

Methods: Twenty-three children 3-11 years of age who consumed only conventional diets were recruited for this 1-year study conducted in 2003-2004. Children switched to organic diets for 5 consecutive days in the summer and fall sampling seasons. We measured specific urinary metabolites for malathion, chlorpyrifos, and other OP pesticides in urine samples collected twice daily for a period of 7, 12, or 15 consecutive days during each of the four seasons.

Results: By substituting organic fresh fruits and vegetables for corresponding conventional food items, the median urinary metabolite concentrations were reduced to nondetected or close to non-detected levels for malathion and chlorpyrifos at the end of the 5-day organic diet intervention period in both summer and fall seasons. We also observed a seasonal effect on the OP urinary metabolite concentrations, and this seasonality corresponds to the consumption of fresh produce throughout the year.

Conclusions: The findings from this study demonstrate that dietary intake of OP pesticides represents the major source of exposure in young children.

Keywords: children; chlorpyrifos; dietary exposure; longitudinal pesticide exposure; malathion; organic diet; organophosphorus pesticides; urinary biomonitoring.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Food, Organic
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / urine*
  • Pesticides / urine*
  • Seasons
  • Suburban Population*
  • Urban Population*


  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Pesticides