The epidemiology of glyphosate-surfactant herbicide poisoning in Taiwan, 1986-2007: a poison center study

Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2009 Aug;47(7):670-7. doi: 10.1080/15563650903140399.


Background: Glyphosate-surfactant herbicide (GlySH) is widely used in agriculture and has been associated with numerous toxicities following oral ingestion. However, there are many controversies with regard to the exact causes and determinants of developing severe/death outcome after exposure to GlySH.

Methods: We conducted an analysis of all GlySH exposures reported to the Taiwan National Poison Control Center between 1986 and 2007. Patients' baseline characteristics and clinical data were reviewed and analyzed.

Results: A total of 2,186 patients were eligible for analysis. Most of the exposures were related to oral ingestion (n = 2,023, 92.5%) and attempted suicide (n = 1,631, 74.6%). The mean age of exposure was 42.8 +/- 18.6 years. One hundred patients developed severe effects and 146 patients died following oral GlySH exposure, resulting in a case fatality rate of 7.2%. Shock (n = 85, 58.2%) and respiratory failure (n = 34, 23.3%) accounted for most fatalities. Four out of eight patients with injection exposure manifested severe (n = 3) or fatal outcome (n = 1). In a multivariate logistic regression analysis, increasing age, larger amount of exposure, longer elapsed time to presentation, attempted suicide, receipt of atropine therapy, and being exposed in certain calendar years were positively associated with the severity of poisoning following oral GlySH exposure.

Conclusion: Age, ingested amount, delayed presentation, and reason for exposure were likely to be determinants of the severity of GlySH exposure. Because shock is the major cause of death and usually develops early after GlySH exposure, prompt fluid replacement therapy seems critical in the initial management of such exposures. Patients' airway should also be secured to avoid aspiration and subsequent respiratory failure.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / poisoning
  • Herbicides / poisoning*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poison Control Centers
  • Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Poisoning / etiology
  • Poisoning / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / mortality
  • Risk Factors
  • Shock / chemically induced
  • Shock / mortality
  • Suicide, Attempted
  • Surface-Active Agents / poisoning*
  • Survival Rate / trends
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Drug Combinations
  • Herbicides
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • glyphosate
  • Glycine