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Pyrethrin and Pyrethroid Exposure Causes Adverse Reactions

Compiled by Melissa Kaplan


Mechanisms of pyrethroid neurotoxicity: implications for cumulative risk assessment.
Soderlund DM, Clark JM, Sheets LP, Mullin LS, Piccirillo VJ, Sargent D, Stevens JT, Weiner ML. Department of Entomology, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456, USA.
Toxicology 2002 Feb 1;171(1):3-59

The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996 requires the United States Environmental Protection Agency to consider the cumulative effects of exposure to pesticides having a 'common mechanism of toxicity.' This paper reviews the information available on the acute neurotoxicity and mechanisms of toxic action of pyrethroid insecticides in mammals from the perspective of the 'common mechanism' statute of the FQPA.

The principal effects of pyrethroids as a class are various signs of excitatory neurotoxicity. Historically, pyrethroids were grouped into two subclasses (Types I and II) based on chemical structure and the production of either the T (tremor) or CS (choreoathetosis with salivation) intoxication syndrome following intravenous or intracerebral administration to rodents. Although this classification system is widely employed, it has several shortcomings for the identification of common toxic effects. In particular, it does not reflect the diversity of intoxication signs found following oral administration of various pyrethroids.

Pyrethroids act in vitro on a variety of putative biochemical and physiological target sites, four of which merit consideration as sites of toxic action. Voltage-sensitive sodium channels, the sites of insecticidal action, are also important target sites in mammals. Unlike insects, mammals have multiple sodium channel isoforms that vary in their biophysical and pharmacological properties, including their differential sensitivity to pyrethroids.

Pyrethroids also act on some isoforms of voltage-sensitive calcium and chloride channels, and these effects may contribute to the toxicity of some compounds. Effects on peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptors are unlikely to be a principal cause of pyrethroid intoxication but may contribute to or enhance convulsions caused by actions at other target sites. In contrast, other putative target sites that have been identified in vitro do not appear to play a major role in pyrethroid intoxication. The diverse toxic actions and pharmacological effects of pyrethroids suggest that simple additivity models based on combined actions at a single target are not appropriate to assess the risks of cumulative exposure to multiple pyrethroids.


[Pyrethroid exposure following indoor treatments with a dog flea powder]
[Article in German] Schulze M, Helber B, Hardt J, Ehret W. Umweltmedizinisches Zentrum (Direktor: Prof. Dr. Dr. W. Ehret), Klinikum, Augsburg. Dtsch Med Wochenschr 2002 Mar 22;127(12):616-8

HISTORY: A 42 year old woman reported hair loss, gastrointestinal and non-specific symptoms. The patient has lived in a council flat and kept a dog who had been regularly treated with pyrethroid containing flea powder.

INVESTIGATIONS: The biological monitoring of pyrethroid meta-bolites in urine was performed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The values at admission and follow-up after 4 weeks were highly elevated. Inspection of the flat revealed a humid and cramped dwelling.

TREATMENT: We recommended redevelopment and cleaning of the dwelling and the avoidance of ectoparasiticide use.

CONCLUSION: To our knowledge this is the first documented case of high indoor pyrethroid exposure following the use of ectoparasiticides with domestic animals. Pyrethroids can cause neurotoxic symptoms and skin irritation. There are few data concerning chronic effects. The causal connection between pyrethroid exposure and symptoms remains unclear and poses a great problem in environmental medicine.


Striatal dopaminergic pathways as a target for the insecticides permethrin and chlorpyrifos.
Karen DJ, Li W, Harp PR, Gillette JS, Bloomquis JR. Department of Entomology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg 24061, USA. Neurotoxicology 2001 Dec;22(6):811-7

Because insecticide exposure has been linked to both Parkinsons disease and Gulf War illness, the neurotoxic actions of pyrethroid and organophosphate insecticides on behavior and striatal dopaminergic pathways were investigated in C57BL/6 mice treated with permethrin (three i.p. doses at 0.2-200 mg/kg) or chlorpyrifos (three s.c. doses at 25-100 mg/kg) over a 2-week period. Permethrin altered maximal [3H]dopamine uptake in striatal synaptosomes from treated mice, with changes in Vmax displaying a bell-shaped curve. Uptake was increased to 134% of control at a dose of 1.5 mg/kg. At higher doses of PM (25 mg/kg), dopamine uptake declined to a level significantly below that of control (50% of control at 200 mg/kg, P < 0.01). We also observed a small, but statistically significant decrease in [3H]dopamine uptake by chlorpyrifos, when given at a dose of 100 mg/kg. There was no significant effect on the Km for dopamine transport. Evidence of cell stress was observed in measures of mitochondrialfunction, which were reduced in mice given high-end doses of chlorpyrifos and permethrin. Although cytotoxicity was not reflected in decreased levels of striatal dopamine in either 200 mg/kg PM or 100 mg/kg CPF treatment groups, an increase in dopamine turnover at 100 mg/kg CPF was indicated by a significant increase in titers of the dopamine metabolite, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid. Both permethrin and chlorpyrifos caused a decrease in open field behavior at the highest doses tested. Although frank Parkinsonism was not observed, these findings confirm that dopaminergic neurotransmission is affected by exposure to pyrethroid and organophosphorus insecticides, and may contribute to the overall spectrum of neurotoxicity caused by these compounds.

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