Pesticide exposure among pregnant women in Jerusalem, Israel: Results of a pilot study

Tamar Berman, Drorit Hochner-Celnikier, Dana Boyd Barr, Larry L. Needham, Yona Amitai, Uri Wormser, Elihu Richter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Background: Pesticides have been shown to disrupt neurodevelopment in laboratory animals and in human populations. To date, there have been no studies on exposure to pesticides in pregnant women in Israel, despite reports of widespread exposure in other populations of pregnant women and the importance of evaluating exposure in this susceptible sub-population. Methods: We measured urinary concentrations of organophosphorus (OP) insecticide metabolites and plasma concentrations of OP and other pesticides in 20 pregnant women, recruited in Jerusalem, Israel in 2006, and collected questionnaire data on demographic factors and consumer habits from these women. We compared geometric mean concentrations in subgroups using the Mann-Whitney U-test for independent samples. We compared creatinine-adjusted OP pesticide metabolite concentrations, as well as plasma pesticide concentrations, with other populations of pregnant women. Results: Creatinine-adjusted total dimethyl (DM) metabolite concentrations were between 4 and 6 times higher in this population compared to other populations of pregnant women in the United States while total diethyl (DE) metabolite concentrations were lower. Dimethylphosphate (DMP) was detected in 74% of the urine samples whereas dimethylthiophosphate (DMTP) was detected in 90% of the urine samples. The carbamate bendiocarb was detected in 89% of the plasma samples, while the OP insecticide chlorpyrifos was detected in 42% of the samples. Mean plasma concentrations of bendiocarb and chlorpyrifos in our sample were 4.4 and 3.9 times higher, respectively, than that of an urban minority cohort from New York City. Twelve women (63%) reported using some form of household pest control during their pregnancy and five (26%) reported using household pest control during the past month. Women with a graduate degree had significantly higher geometric mean concentrations of total urinary DM metabolite concentrations compared to other women (P=0.006). Finally, one woman in the study had exceptionally high concentrations of DMP, DMTP, DMDTP compared to the other women in the study, despite reporting no current occupational exposure to OP pesticides and no other significant exposure sources. Conclusions: Pregnant women in the Jerusalem area are exposed to OP pesticides and to the carbamate pesticide bendiocarb. It is unclear why total DM metabolites concentrations were much higher in this population compared to other populations of pregnant women in the United States and Netherlands. Finally, the finding of very high DM metabolite concentrations in one woman who reported being moved from her regular laboratory work to administrative work upon becoming pregnant, raises questions about the adequacy of measures to protect pregnant women from pesticide exposures during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-203
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironment international
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomonitoring
  • Exposure
  • Organophosphates
  • Pesticides
  • Pregnancy
  • Urinary metabolites


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