Bioavailability and Bioaccumulation of Pyrethroid Insecticides in Wildlife and Humans

Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 92)


Despite the initial assumption that pyrethroid insecticides are “ideal” because they do not bioaccumulate and because they are able to be metabolized by mammals, recent studies have showed the opposite. Based on desorption kinetics from sediment, cyfluthrin has been reported as the most bioavailable compound, while λ-cyhalothrin was the less bioavailable. Bioaccumulation has been reported for several species. Franciscana dolphins from Brazil showed pyrethroid levels of 7.04–68.4 ng/g lw. A trend of levels connected to the age of dolphins was observed. Striped dolphins from the Spanish Mediterranean had a mean total concentration of 300 ± 932 ng/g lw. Pyrethroid levels in wild Iberian river fish were 12–4,940 ng/g lw. Pyrethroid profiles possibly reflected the local use of pesticides, and interspecies profile variation for fish was reported. While bioavailability of pyrethroids seemed considerably lower than that of POPs, concentrations of pyrethroids in striped dolphins and Iberian fish were comparable or higher than those of some POPs such as flame retardants. Mean total pyrethroid levels in unhatched eggs from wild birds collected in Spain were 1.93–162 ng/g lw, depending on the species and their feeding habits. Pyrethroid levels in human milk samples were 87–1,200 ng/g lw for a rural area in Mozambique, where they are used against the malaria vector, and 1.45–24.2 ng/g lw for urban and rural areas of Colombia, Spain and Brazil. The contamination in milk decreased exponentially with parity, supporting the hypothesis of maternal transfer of pyrethroids. The maternal transfer of pyrethroids has been observed using several tissues from mothers and foetuses of dolphins. Isomer-specific accumulation or metabolization of pyrethroids has been assessed with somewhat consistent results, although analysing environmental samples from the areas where biological samples are collected would allow more accurate observations.


Bioaccumulation Bioavailability Maternal transfer Metabolization Pesticides Pyrethroids 



Acceptable daily intake




Estimated daily intake


Enantiomeric factor


Environmental Protection Agency








Octanol-water partition coefficient


Lipid weight


Organophosphorus flame retardant


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon


Polybrominated diphenyl ether


Polychlorinated biphenyl


Persistent organic pollutant


Diastereoisomeric factor


World Health Organization


Wet weight


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental ChemistryIDAEA-CSICBarcelonaSpain

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