Twenty-four-hour urinary excretion of ten pesticide metabolites in healthy adults in two different areas of Italy (Florence and Ragusa)

Calogero Saieva, Cristina Aprea, Rosario Tumino, Giovanna Masala, Simonetta Salvini, Graziella Frasca, Maria Concetta Giurdanella, Ines Zanna, Adriano Decarli, Gianfranco Sciarra, Domenico Palli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The determination of pesticide metabolites in human biological fluids represents an important biomarker of exposure in the general population and exposed workers. In the frame of a prospective study, we measured the 24-h urinary excretion of 10 pesticide metabolites to evaluate non-occupational exposure to pesticides in the general population in two different areas in Italy. We collected 24-h urine samples from 69 healthy adults residing in Florence (Central Italy, n=51) and Ragusa (Southern Italy, n=18). The volunteers (25 males, 44 females; mean age 56 years) did not report any occupational exposure. We measured: six alkylphosphates, aspecific metabolites of organophosphorus pesticides [dimethylphosfate (DMP), dimethylthiophosfate (DMTP), dimethyldithiophosfate (DMDTP), diethylphosfate (DEP), diethylthiophosfate (DEDP), and diethyldithiophosfate (DEDTP)]; 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol (TCP), the main metabolite of chlorpyrifos; 3-phenoxybenzoic acid (3-PBA), a metabolite of pyrethroid insecticides; ethylenethiourea (ETU) a metabolite of ethylenebisdithiocarbamates; methamidophos (METH), an organophosphorus insecticide. We also measured PABA excretion as compliance marker (mean recovery 95%). Dimethylphosphates were found in detectable concentrations in the majority of samples (89.9%, 82.6% and 60.9% for DMP, DMTP and DMDTP, respectively). Urinary diethylphosphates (DEP, DETP, DEDTP) concentrations were above the detection limit in 80.9%, 61.8% and 27.5% of samples, respectively. TCP, 3-PBA and ETU were detected in 78.3%, 53.6% and 21.7% of samples, respectively. Methamidophos was detected in two samples (2.8%). The median number of metabolites detected in the same urine sample was 6 (range 0-9). Excretion levels were highest for alkylphosphates, particularly for DMTP (median: 142.6 nmol/day). Multivariate analysis showed statistically significant differences between these two groups of adults, with higher mean values of urinary excretion of alkylphosphates, TCP and ETU in Florence in comparison to Ragusa. Overall, a very high percentage of 24-h urine samples positive for several pesticide metabolites emerged, with higher levels of urinary daily excretion in subjects residing in the more urbanised area. Our results suggest that food monitoring programs should be supported by general campaigns aimed to reduce the use of pesticides in agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-80
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2004


  • 3,5,6-trichloro-2- pyridinol
  • 3-phenoxybenzoic acid
  • alkylphosphates
  • Ethylenethiourea
  • General population
  • Reference values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

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