DNA damage and cholinesterase activity in occupational workers exposed to pesticides

Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2011 Mar;31(2):278-85. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2010.11.005. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


The present study was designed to evaluate genotoxicity, acetyl cholinesterase (AChE) activity, hepatic and renal toxicity in occupational workers exposed to mixture of pesticides (n=70) with same number of healthy subjects as controls. The mean comet tail DNA % (TD %) and tail moment (TM) were used to measure DNA damage, while AChE activity and other biochemical parameters such as markers of nephrotoxicity (urea and creatinine) and hepatotoxicity (AST, ALT and ALP) were measured as biomarkers for toxicity due to exposure of pesticides. The occupational workers were continuously exposed to mixture of pirimiphos methyl, chlorpyrifos, temephos and malathion on a regular interval as per usage and activity. The comet assay using lymphocytes of exposed workers showed significantly higher TD percentage value (60.43% vs. 31.86%, p<0.001) and TM value (14.48 μm vs. 6.42 μm, p<0.001) in occupational workers as compared to controls. AChE activity in erythrocytes was found to be decreased (3.45 KAU/L vs. 9.55 KAU/L in controls, p<0.001) and associated with the duration of exposure to pesticides used by the workers. Enzyme levels for hepatic and renal functions were also found significantly different in occupational workers than healthy controls (p<0.001). These results suggest that the exposure to mixture of pirimiphos methyl, chlorpyrifos, temephos and malathion may induce DNA damage, decrease in AChE activity, hepatotoxicity as well as nephrotoxicity. Periodic biomonitoring of these biomarkers along with imparting education and training to occupational workers for safe application of pesticides is recommended for its potential hazards.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / blood*
  • Adult
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood
  • Comet Assay
  • Creatinine / blood
  • DNA Damage*
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • India
  • Kidney / drug effects*
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / toxicity*
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Protective Devices
  • Serum Albumin / analysis
  • Urea / blood


  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Pesticides
  • Serum Albumin
  • Urea
  • Creatinine
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Alkaline Phosphatase