Environmental research

Maternal hair--an appropriate matrix for detecting maternal exposure to pesticides during pregnancy.

PMID 16584725


The detection of exposure of pregnant women to toxicants in the environment is important because these compounds can be harmful to the health of the woman and her fetus. The aim of this study was to analyze for pesticides/herbicides in paired maternal hair and blood samples to determine the most appropriate matrix for detecting maternal exposure to these compounds. A total of 449 pregnant women were prospectively recruited at midgestation from an agricultural site in the Philippines where a preliminary survey indicated significant use at home and on the farm of the following compounds: propoxur, cyfluthrin, chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin, pretilachlor, bioallethrin, malathion, diazinon, and transfluthrin. Paired maternal hair and blood samples were obtained from each subject upon recruitment into the study (midgestation) and at birth and were analyzed for the above compounds, as well as lindane and DDT [1,1,1-trichloro-2-2-bis(p-chlorophenyl) ethane], and some of their known metabolites by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The highest exposure rate was seen for propoxur and bioallethrin and maternal hair analysis provided the highest detection rate for these two compounds, compared to blood, at both time periods: (1) At midgestation, 10.5% positive for propoxur in hair compared to 0.7% in blood (P<0.001) and for bioallethrin, 11.9% positive in hair compared to 0% in blood (P < or = 0.001), and (2) at birth, 11.8% positive for propoxur in hair compared to 4% in blood (P < or = 0.001) and for bioallethrin, 7.8% in hair compared to 0% in blood (P < or = 0.001). A small number of maternal hair samples were also positive for malathion, chlorpyrifos, pretilachlor, and DDT. Only a few of the pesticide metabolites were detected, principally 3-phenoxybenzoic acid, malathion monocarboxylic acid, and DDE [1,1,dichloro-2-2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene], and they were mostly found in maternal blood. There was a significant association between the use of the home spray pesticide, Baygon, and propoxur in maternal hair at birth (P=0.001) and between the use of a slow-burning mosquito coil and the presence of bioallethrin in maternal hair at midgestation and at birth (P=0.001, P < or = 0.041, respectively). There is significant exposure of the pregnant woman to pesticides, particularly to pesticides that are used at home. Our study demonstrates the advantages of analyzing maternal hair as a readily available biologic matrix for studying maternal exposure to toxicants in the environment, compared to blood. For propoxur, there was a 3- to 15-fold higher detection rate of the pesticide in maternal hair as compared to blood. As for the other pesticides, bioallethrin, malathion, chlorpyrifos, and DDT were exclusively found in maternal hair compared to blood. On the other hand, pesticide metabolites were infrequently found in maternal hair or maternal blood. Pesticides in blood most likely represent acute exposure, whereas pesticides in hair represent past and/or concurrent exposure. The high sensitivity, wide window of exposure, availability, and ease of hair collection are distinct advantages in using hair to detect exposure to pesticides among pregnant women. However, pesticides in maternal hair may also be secondary to passive exposure and therefore not truly representative of the internal pesticide dose. Finally, the analysis of maternal hair for pesticides as an index of maternal exposure to pesticides in the environment allows the institution of measures to prevent further exposure during pregnancy.