Pesticides almost always occur in mixtures with other ones. The toxicological effects of low-dose pesticide mixtures on the human health are largely unknown, although there are growing concerns about their safety. The combined toxicological effects of two or more components of a pesticide mixture can take one of three forms: independent, dose addition or interaction. Not all mixtures of pesticides with similar chemical structures produce additive effects; thus, if they act on multiple sites their mixtures may produce different toxic effects. The additive approach also fails when evaluating mixtures that involve a secondary chemical that changes the toxicokinetics of the pesticide as a result of its increased activation or decreased detoxification, which is followed by an enhanced or reduced toxicity, respectively. This review addresses a number of toxicological interactions of pesticide mixtures at a molecular level. Examples of such interactions include the postulated mechanisms for the potentiation of pyrethroid, carbaryl and triazine herbicides toxicity by organophosphates; how the toxicity of some organophosphates can be potentiated by other organophosphates or by previous exposure to organochlorines; the synergism between pyrethroid and carbamate compounds and the antagonism between triazine herbicides and prochloraz. Particular interactions are also addressed, such as those of pesticides acting as endocrine disruptors, the cumulative toxicity of organophosphates and organochlorines resulting in estrogenic effects and the promotion of organophosphate-induced delayed polyneuropathy.
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