Preformed biomarkers including dialkylphosphates (DAPs) in produce may confound biomonitoring in pesticide exposure and risk assessment

J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Sep 12;60(36):9342-51. doi: 10.1021/jf303116p. Epub 2012 Sep 4.


Low levels of pesticides and their metabolites/degradates occur in produce when pesticides are used in conventional or organic crop protection. Human dietary and nonoccupational urine biomonitoring studies may be confounded by preformed pesticide biomarkers in the diet. The extent of formation of putative urine biomarkers, including malathion specific (MMA, MDA; malathion mono- and diacids), organophosphorus generic (DMP, DMTP, DMDTP; dimethyl-, dimethylthio-, and dimethydithiophosphate), pyrethroid generic (3-PBA; 3-phenoxybenzoic acid), and captan-specific metabolites (THPI; tetrahydrophthalimide), was measured in produce samples containing the parent pesticide. Every produce sample of 19 types of fruits and vegetables contained biomarkers of potential human exposure. A total of 134 of 157 (85%) samples contained more molar equivalent biomarkers than parent pesticide. Malathion and fenpropathrin were sprayed (1 lb/A), and the time-dependent formation of pesticide biomarkers in strawberries was investigated under field conditions typical of commercial production in California. Malathion and fenpropathrin residues were always below established residue tolerances. Malathion, MMA, and MDA dissipated, while DMP, DMTP, and DMDTP increased, during a 20 day study period following the preharvest interval. The mole ratios of biomarkers/(malathion + malaoxon) were always greater than 1 and increased from day 4 to day 23 postapplication. Fenpropathrin and 3-PBA also dissipated in strawberries during each monitoring period. The mole ratios of 3-PBA/fenpropathrin were always less than 1 and decreased from day 4 to day 14. The absorption of pesticide biomarkers in produce and excretion in urine would falsely indicate consumer pesticide exposure if used to reconstruct dose for risk characterization.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / chemistry*
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Pesticide Residues / chemistry*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Vegetables / chemistry*


  • Biomarkers
  • Pesticide Residues