Pyrethroids: exposure and health effects--an update

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2015 May;218(3):281-92. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2015.01.002. Epub 2015 Jan 15.


Synthetic pyrethroids are present in numerous commercial insecticide formulations and have extensive indoor and outdoor applications worldwide, including agricultural, public, residential, and veterinary usages for pest control. Pyrethroid use has increased continuously in recent years. The aim of this review is to provide updated and comprehensive information on human exposure and potential hazards associated with this class of pesticides. An initial keyword search in the PubMed database was conducted to identify relevant articles. Were taken into considerations only the studies published in the last decade that have assessed exposure and health effects of pyrethroids in human populations. Literature review shows that exposure evaluations increasingly focus on biomonitoring and that a large number of recent epidemiological studies pertain to the effects of pyrethroids on male fertility and prenatal development. The main metabolites of pyrethroids have frequently been detected in urine samples from the general population, confirming widespread exposure of children and adults to one or more pyrethroids. Non-occupational exposure to pyrethroids mainly occurs through ingestion of residues in food, or ingestion of or dermal contact with contaminated house dust or surface-adhering particles, following domestic use. Although clinical features resulting from acute accidental exposure to pyrethroids are well described (e.g., paraesthesiae, and respiratory, eye and skin irritation), information regarding their chronic effects at low concentrations is both limited and controversial. Several recent epidemiological studies have raised concerns about potentially adverse effects on sperm quality and sperm DNA, reproductive hormones, and pregnancy outcomes. Early neurobehavioural development after in utero exposure is discussed. Further research is needed to clarify the possible risks associated with long-term environmental exposure to pyrethroids.

Keywords: Health; Human biomonitoring; Insecticides; Male reproduction; Pregnancy; Pyrethroids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects
  • Fetal Development / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pyrethrins / adverse effects*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Insecticides
  • Pyrethrins