Archives of environmental contamination and toxicology

Assessing the genotoxic potential of chlorothalonil drift from potato fields in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

PMID 21915760


Chlorothalonil, a broad-spectrum nonsystemic foliar fungicide, is one of the most extensively used pesticide active ingredients on Prince Edward Island, Canada, for blight control on potatoes. In ambient air-sampling programs conducted in 1998 and 1999 and from 2002 to 2004, chlorothalonil was measured in 97% of air samples collected. It is known to produce severe eye and skin irritation, is cytogenic and is considered a possible human carcinogen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Inhalation studies that quantify chlorothalonil subchronic effects (e.g., genotoxicity) are lacking. The purpose of this study was to assess the possible genotoxic potential of chlorothalonil under field conditions by using the alkaline comet assay to assess DNA damage in CD-1 mice. Mice were selected as a surrogate species for wild small mammals (e.g., meadow voles, deer mice) known to inhabit areas adjacent to potato fields. Mice were placed at three locations downwind of a chlorothalonil application (0, 30, and 100 m) and at one up-wind control location at least 30 m from the field. Downwind mice were exposed to drift throughout the spray period (approximately 30 min) and for an additional hour after spraying. Air samples were collected during the spray trials (before, during, and after spraying) using high-volume polyurethane foam and PM(2.5) air samplers. Pesticide deposits were measured using 20 × 25 cm glass-fibre filters. After exposure, blood was collected from each mouse, and DNA strand breaks in white blood cells measured using comet assay. Results suggest that metrics of DNA damage [tail length (TL), percent DNA in tail] were not significantly related to total air chlorothalonil concentration from the three spray trials (r (2) = 0.000, P = 0.907 for TL; r (2) = 0.001, P = 0.874 for percent DNA). In addition, no significant difference in DNA damage was observed between exposed (at 0 m) and control animals (P = 0.357 for TL; P = 0.958 for percent DNA). Based on these results it can be concluded that wild small mammals living beside fields sprayed with chlorothalonil are at no greater risk of exposure-related DNA damage than conspecifics from unexposed areas.