Organophosphate and Carbamate Insecticides in Agricultural Waters and Cholinesterase (ChE) Inhibition in Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)

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Abstract.

Cholinesterase (ChE) activity was used as a biomarker for assessing exposure of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) to organophosphate and carbamate insecticides from irrigated agricultural waters. Carp were collected from a lake (Royal Lake) that receives most of its water from irrigation return flows and from a reference lake (Billy Clapp Lake) outside of the irrigation system. Results indicated that the mean whole-brain ChE activity of carp from Royal Lake (3.47 μmol/min/g tissue) was 34.2% less than that of carp from Billy Clapp Lake (5.27 μmol/min/g tissue) (p = 0.003). The depressed ChE activity in brain tissue of Royal Lake carp was in response to ChE-inhibiting insecticides detected in water samples in the weeks prior to tissue sampling; the most frequently detected insecticides included chlorpyrifos, azinphos-methyl, carbaryl, and ethoprop. Neither sex nor size appears to be a covariable in the analysis; ChE activity was not correlated with fish length or weight in either lake and there was no significant difference in ChE activity between the two sexes within each lake. Although organophosphate and carbamate insecticides can break down rapidly in the environment, this study suggests that in agricultural regions where insecticides are applied for extended periods of the year, nontarget aquatic biota may be exposed to high levels of ChE-inhibiting insecticides for a period of several months.

Received: 12 November 1997/Accepted: 6 March 1998