A controlled field trial of physiological responses to organophosphate residues in farm workers

J Environ Pathol Toxicol. 1978 Nov-Dec;2(2):493-512.


Blood acetylcholinesterase (ACHE) and pseudocholinesterase (PCHE) activity and urinary dialkyl phosphate (DAP) excretion were measured in a group of 15 male agriculture field workers during a five-day thinning operation in a Northern California peach orchard. Eight men were randomly assigned to work in a Guthion-treated plot, and seven men to work in an adjoining plot free from organophosphate residues. Foliage samples were taken to measure dislodgeable and total Guthion residues. The daily mean percent change in the ACHE and in the PCHE activity was less than -10.0 percent of baseline values for each group of men. Mean ACHE activity of workers in the Guthion treated plot was different from that of workers in the control plot on the fifth exposure day. The mean PCHE activity of workers in the Guthion treated plot was not different from that of workers in the control plot. Daily group-mean urinary metabolite excretion levels for workers exposed to Guthion residues were highly correlated with their daily group-mean percent change in ACHE activity. No urinary metabolites were detected in workers in the control plot. Decay in Guthion residues was markedly slower in this trial than in a comparable study conducted one year previously, emphasizing the difficulty in setting re-entry intervals based on time elapsed from pesticide application. Suggestions were made to extend the time interval of future studies on the human health effects of organophosphate residue exposure, and to further refine urinary metabolite surveillance methods toward the goal of establishing a threshold level of metabolites which would correspond to meaningful exposure to these pesticides residues.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / blood
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Butyrylcholinesterase / blood
  • Cholinesterases / blood
  • Erythrocytes / enzymology
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / analysis
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / urine
  • Pesticide Residues / analysis
  • Pesticide Residues / toxicity*
  • Time Factors


  • Insecticides
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Pesticide Residues
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Butyrylcholinesterase
  • Cholinesterases