In an article published in the journal Environment International, researchers from Inserm (Inserm Unit 1085 – IRSET, the Institute of Research in Environmental and Occupational Health, Rennes), in association with the Laboratory for Developmental and Educational Psychology, LPDE (Rennes 2 University), provide new evidence of neurotoxicity in humans from pyrethroid insecticides, which are found in a wide variety of products and uses. An increase in the urinary levels of two pyrethroid metabolites (3-PBA and cis-DBCA) in children is associated with a significant decrease in their cognitive performances , particularly verbal comprehension and working memory. This study was carried out on nearly 300 mother and child pairs from the PELAGIE cohort (Brittany).
Pyrethroids constitute a family of insecticides widely used in a variety of sectors: agriculture (various crops), veterinary (antiparasitics) and domestic (lice shampoo, mosquito products). Their mode of action involves blocking neurotransmission in insects, leading to paralysis. Because of their efficacy and relative safety for humans and mammals, they have replaced older compounds (organochorides, organophosphates, carbamate) considered more toxic.
Exposure of children to pyrethroids is common. It is different to adult exposure, due to the closer proximity of children to ground-level dust (which stores pollutants), more frequent hand-to-mouth contact, lice shampoos, etc. In children, pyrethroids are mainly absorbed via the digestive system, but are also absorbed through the skin. They are rapidly metabolised in the liver, and mainly eliminated in the urine as metabolites within 48 hours.