Micronuclei and pesticide exposure

Mutagenesis. 2011 Jan;26(1):19-26. doi: 10.1093/mutage/geq070.


Micronucleus (MN) is a biomarker widely used in biomonitoring studies carried out to determine the genetic risk associated to pesticide exposure. Many in vitro and in vivo studies, as well as epidemiological approaches, have demonstrated the ability of certain chemical pesticides to produce genetic effects including cancer and other chronic pathologies in humans; thus, biomonitoring studies have been carried out to characterise the genetic risk associated to pesticide exposure. It must be noted that 'pesticide exposure' is a broad term covering complex mixtures of chemicals and many variables that can reduce or potentiate their risk. In addition, there are large differences in pesticides used in the different parts of the world. Although pesticides constitute a wide group of environmental pollutants, the main focus on their risk has been addressed to people using pesticides in their working places, at the chemical industry or in the crop fields. Here, we present a brief review of biomonitoring studies carried out in people occupationally exposed to pesticides and that use MN in lymphocytes or buccal cells as a target to determine the induction of genotoxic damage. Thus, people working in the chemical industry producing pesticides, people spraying pesticides and people dedicated to floriculture or agricultural works in general are the subject of specific sections. MN is a valuable genotoxic end point when clear exposure conditions exist like in pesticide production workers; nevertheless, better study designs are needed to overcome the uncertainty in exposure, genetic susceptibility and statistical power in the studies of sprayers and floriculture or agricultural workers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Damage
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective / chemically induced*
  • Micronucleus Tests*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Pesticides / toxicity*


  • Pesticides