Urinary metabolites of organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides and behavioral problems in Canadian children

Environ Health Perspect. Nov-Dec 2013;121(11-12):1378-84. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1306667. Epub 2013 Oct 22.


Background: Exposure to organophosphate pesticides has been associated with neurobehavioral deficits in children, although data on low levels of exposure experienced by the general population are sparse. Pyrethroids are insecticides rapidly gaining popularity, and epidemiological evidence on their potential effects is lacking.

Objective: We examined the association between exposure to organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides, indicated by urinary metabolites, and parentally reported behavioral problems in children.

Methods: We used data on children 6-11 years of age from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (2007-2009). We used logistic regressions to estimate odds ratios (ORs) for high scores on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), which may indicate behavioral problems, in association with concentrations of pyrethroid and organophosphate metabolites in the urine of 779 children, adjusting for covariates (sex, age, race/ethnicity, income, parental education, blood lead levels, maternal smoking during pregnancy, and others).

Results: At least one urinary metabolite for organophosphates was detected in 91% of children, and for pyrethroids in 97% of children. Organophosphate metabolites were not significantly associated with high SDQ scores. The pyrethroid metabolite cis-DCCA [3-(2,2-dichlorovinyl)-2,2-dimethylycyclopropane carboxylic acid] was significantly associated with high scores for total difficulties on the SDQ (OR for a 10-fold increase = 2.0; 95% CI: 1.1, 3.6), and there was a nonsignificant association with trans-DCCA (OR = 1.6; 95% CI: 0.9, 3.0).

Conclusion: In contrast with previous studies, we did not observe an association between exposure to organophosphate pesticides and behavioral scores in children. However, some pyrethroid urinary metabolites were associated with a high level of parent-reported behavioral problems. Longitudinal studies should be conducted on the potential risks of pyrethroids.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Behavioral Symptoms / chemically induced*
  • Behavioral Symptoms / epidemiology*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Educational Status
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood
  • Logistic Models
  • Odds Ratio
  • Organophosphates / urine*
  • Pesticides / urine*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pyrethrins / urine*
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Organophosphates
  • Pesticides
  • Pyrethrins
  • Lead