Urinary biomarkers of exposure to insecticides, herbicides, and one insect repellent among pregnant women in Puerto Rico
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Urinary biomarkers of exposure to insecticides, herbicides, and one insect repellent among pregnant women in Puerto Rico

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  • Alternative Title:
    Environ Health
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    There are potential adverse health risks to the mother and fetus from exposure to pesticides. Thus, studies of exposure to pesticides among pregnant women are of interest as they will assist with understanding the potential burden of exposure globally, identifying sources of exposure, and designing epidemiology studies.


    We measured urinary concentrations of the insect repellent N-N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) and two of its metabolites [3-diethyl-carbamoyl benzoic acid (DCBA) and N,N-diethyl-3-hydroxymethylbenzamide (DHMB)], four pyrethroid insecticide metabolites [4-fluoro-3-phenoxybenzoic acid (4-F-3-PBA); 3-phenoxybenzoic acid (3-PBA); trans-3-(2,2-dichlorovinyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane carboxylic acid (trans-DCCA); and cis-3-(2,2-dibromovinyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane carboxylic acid (cis-DBCA)], and two chlorophenoxy herbicides [2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T)] in 54 pregnant women from Puerto Rico at three separate time points (20 ± 2 weeks, 24 ± 2 weeks, and 28 ± 2 weeks of gestation). We calculated the distributions of the biomarker concentrations and compared them to those of women of reproductive age from the general U.S. population where available, and estimated the within-subject temporal variability of these repeated measurements. We also collected questionnaire data on demographics, consumption of select fruits, vegetables, and legumes in the past 48-hr, and pest-related issues, and associations between these variables and biomarker concentrations were examined.


    We found that 95th percentile urinary concentrations of DEET, 3-PBA, trans-DCCA, and 2,4-D were lower than women of reproductive age on the U.S. mainland, whereas 95th percentile urinary concentrations of 4-F-3-PBA, cis-DBCA, and 2,4,5-T were similar. DCBA, the only urinary biomarker detected in >50% of the samples, showed fair to good reproducibility across pregnancy (intraclass correlation coefficient: 0.60). Women were more likely (p <0.05) to have greater urinary concentrations of pesticide biomarkers if they were less educated (DCBA and trans-DCCA), unemployed (DHMB), or married (2,4-D), had consumed collards or spinach in past 48-hr (2,4-D) or had been using insect repellent since becoming pregnant (DCBA), or were involved with residential applications of pesticides (trans-DCCA).


    We identified concentrations and predictors of several pesticides among pregnant women in Puerto Rico. Further research is needed to understand what aspects of the predictors identified lead to greater exposure, and whether exposure during pregnancy is associated with adverse health.

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