Dialkylphosphates (DAPs) in fruits and vegetables may confound biomonitoring in organophosphorus insecticide exposure and risk assessment

J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Nov 26;56(22):10638-45. doi: 10.1021/jf8018084.


Trace residues of organophosphorus (OP) pesticides are associated with fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with those OP pesticides to guard against insect pests. Human dietary exposure to these OP pesticides is commonly estimated by measuring the amount of OP metabolites in urine, assuming a stoichiometric relationship between a metabolite and its parent insecticide. Dialkylphosphates (DAPs) are the OP metabolites that are most often used as markers in such biomonitoring studies. However, abiotic hydrolysis, photolysis, and plant metabolism can convert OP chemicals (OP residues) to DAP residues on or in the fruits and vegetables. To evaluate the extent of these conversions, OPs and DAPs were measured in 153 produce samples. These samples from 2 lots were known to contain OP insecticide residues based on routine monitoring by California producers and shippers. A total of 12 OPs were quantified, including mevinphos, naled, acephate, methamidophos, oxidemeton-methyl, azinphos-methyl, dimethoate, malathion, methidathion, phosmet, chlorpyrifos, and diazinon. All OP insecticide residues were below their respective residue tolerances in 2002-2004. A total of 91 of 153 samples (60%) contained more DAP residues than parent OPs. The mean mole fractions [DAPs/(DAPs + OPs)] for the first and second lots of produce were 0.62 and 0.50, respectively, and the corresponding geometric means were 0.55 and 0.34. The corresponding mean mole ratios (DAPs/OP) were 7.1 and 3.4, with geometric means of 2.1 and 0.9. Any preformed DAPs ingested in the diet that are excreted in urine may inflate the estimated absorbed OP insecticide doses in occupational and environmental studies. In subsequent prospective studies, time-dependent production of dimethylphosphate (DMP) and dimethylthiophosphate (DMTP) in strawberries and leaves following malathion sprays occurred concomitant with the disappearance of the parent insecticide and its oxon. DAPs are more persistent in plants and produce at routinely measured levels than their parent OP insecticides.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Insecticides / analysis*
  • Insecticides / metabolism
  • Malathion / analysis
  • Malathion / metabolism
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / analysis*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / metabolism
  • Pesticide Residues / analysis
  • Phosphates / analysis*
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Vegetables / chemistry*


  • Insecticides
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Pesticide Residues
  • Phosphates
  • dimethyl phosphate
  • Malathion