Pyrethroids in human breast milk: occurrence and nursing daily intake estimation

Environ Int. 2012 Oct 15:47:17-22. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2012.05.007. Epub 2012 Jun 19.


There is an assumption that pyrethroid pesticides are converted to non-toxic metabolites by hydrolysis in mammals. However, some recent works have shown their bioaccumulation in human breast milk collected in areas where pyrethroids have been widely used for agriculture or malaria control. In this work, thirteen pyrethroids have been studied in human breast milk samples coming from areas without pyrethroid use for malaria control, such as Brazil, Colombia and Spain. The concentrations of pyrethroids ranged from 1.45 to 24.2 ng g⁻¹ lw. Cypermethrin, λ-cyhalothrin, permethrin and esfenvalerate/fenvalerate were present in all the studied samples. The composition of pyrethroid mixture depended on the country of origin of the samples, bifenthrin being the most abundant in Brazilian samples, λ-cyhalothrin in Colombian and permethrin in Spanish ones. When the pyrethroid concentrations were confronted against the number of gestations, an exponential decay was observed. Moreover, a time trend study was carried out in Brazil, where additional archived pool samples were analyzed, corresponding to years when pyrethroids were applied for dengue epidemic control. In these cases, total pyrethroid levels reached up to 128 ng g⁻¹ lw, and concentrations decreased when massive use was not allowed. Finally, daily intake estimation of nursing infants was calculated in each country and compared to acceptable WHO levels. The estimated daily intakes for nursing infants were always below the acceptable daily intake levels, nevertheless in certain samples the detected concentrations were very close to the maximum acceptable levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agriculture / methods
  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data
  • Brazil
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Colombia
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Environmental Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Insecticides / analysis
  • Insecticides / metabolism*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*
  • Mosquito Control / methods
  • Mosquito Control / statistics & numerical data
  • Nitriles / analysis
  • Nitriles / metabolism
  • Permethrin / analysis
  • Permethrin / metabolism
  • Pyrethrins / analysis
  • Pyrethrins / metabolism*
  • Spain
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Insecticides
  • Nitriles
  • Pyrethrins
  • cypermethrin
  • Permethrin
  • bifenthrin
  • cyhalothrin
  • fenvalerate