New Way to Measure Pesticide Exposure

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The study of pesticide exposure through diet has been a costly one, but researchers from Boise State University’s School of Allied Health Sciences are looking to change that.

Associate Professor Cynthia Curl, along with her colleagues, collected data analyzing the exposure of OPs (organophosphates) through diet. The study looked at nearly 4,500 people from six cities in the United States. Using dietary information provided by participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, researchers were able to examine and predict the amount of pesticides individuals ingested based off participants diet and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measurements of pesticide residue levels on foods. Using urine samples from a subset of 720 individuals, researchers were able to see OP metabolite levels and how they varied depending on whether individuals ate organic produce or not. The results showed that those who ate organic had a lower levels of OPs.

“For most Americans, diet is the primary source of OP pesticide exposure,” explains Curl. “If we can predict pesticide exposure using dietary questionnaire data, then we may be able to understand the potential health effects of dietary exposure to pesticides without having to collect biological samples from people. That will allow research on organic food to be both less expensive and less invasive.”

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