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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 103, Issue 6, pp e404–e407 | Cite as

Increasing Use of Pyrethroids in Canadian Households: Should We Be Concerned?

  • Erna C. van Balen
  • Marcelo J. Wolansky
  • Tom Kosatsky
Commentary

Abstract

Pyrethroids are a class of plant-derived insecticides and their man-made analogues that are increasingly applied in Canada as first choice for pest control in many agricultural and residential settings. Their popularity is partly due to their alleged safety compared to the older organochlorine and organophosphate insecticides. Application of pyrethroids is expanding because of recent increases in the level of pest infestations - such as bed bugs - and the decreased susceptibility of target species to many pest control products. Pyrethroid residues have been documented in homes, child care centres and food. While pyrethroids are considered of low health risk for humans, their increased use is of concern. Our current understanding of the adverse effects of pyrethroids derives mainly from studies of short-term effects in laboratory animals, case reports of self- and accidental poisonings, and high-dose occupational exposures, for which the levels and formulations of pyrethroid products differ from those relevant for long-term exposure in the general population. The available data suggest that the reproductive and nervous systems, endocrine signalling pathways, and early childhood development may be targets for adverse effects in the case of repeated exposure to pyrethroid formulations. Given uncertainty about the existence of long-term health effects of exposure to pyrethroids, particularly under realistic scenarios, we should be cautious when promoting pyrethroid products as safe methods for pest control.

Résumé

Les pyréthrinoïdes, une catégorie d’insecticides dérivés des plantes et leurs analogues synthétiques, sont de plus en plus utilisés au Canada comme premier choix dans la lutte antiparasitaire dans bien des contextes agricoles et résidentiels. Leur popularité est due en partie à leur innocuité présumée comparativement aux insecticides organochlorés et organophosphorés plus anciens. La demande de pyréthrinoïdes augmente en raison des hausses récentes du niveau d’infestations par des insectes nuisibles (comme les punaises de lit) et de la vulnérabilité réduite des espèces cibles à de nombreux produits de lutte antiparasitaire. Des résidus de pyréthrinoïdes ont été détectés dans des logements, des centres de la petite enfance et des aliments. Bien que l’on considère que les pyréthrinoïdes présentent peu de risques pour la santé humaine, leur utilisation croissante est un problème. Nos connaissances actuelles des effets indésirables des pyréthrinoïdes découlent principalement d’études de leurs effets à court terme sur des animaux de laboratoire, d’études de cas d’empoisonnement volontaire et accidentel, et de cas d’exposition professionnelle à des doses élevées; or, dans ces situations, les niveaux et les formulations des produits aux pyréthrinoïdes diffèrent de ceux qui s’appliqueraient à l’étude de leurs risques à long terme dans la population générale. Selon les données disponibles, l’appareil génital, le système nerveux, les voies de signalisation endocrinienne et le développement du jeune enfant pourraient être la cible d’effets indésirables en cas d’exposition répétée à des formulations à base de pyréthrinoïdes. Étant donné l’incertitude entourant l’existence d’effets à long terme sur la santé à la suite d’une exposition aux pyréthrinoïdes, surtout dans des scénarios réalistes, la prudence est de mise lorsqu’on présente les produits aux pyréthrinoïdes comme des outils de lutte antiparasitaire sans danger.

Key words

Pyrethrins environmental exposure endocrine disrupting chemicals toxicology risk assessment 

Mots clés

pyréthrine exposition environnementale perturbateurs endocriniens toxicologie évaluation du risque 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erna C. van Balen
    • 1
  • Marcelo J. Wolansky
    • 2
  • Tom Kosatsky
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.National Collaborating Centre for Environmental HealthVancouverCanada
  2. 2.University of Buenos Aires, Autonomous City of Buenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.British Columbia Centre for Disease ControlVancouverCanada

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