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  • Original Article
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Comparison of questionnaire-based estimation of pesticide residue intake from fruits and vegetables with urinary concentrations of pesticide biomarkers


We developed a pesticide residue burden score (PRBS) based on a food frequency questionnaire and surveillance data on food pesticide residues to characterize dietary exposure over the past year. In the present study, we evaluated the association of the PRBS with urinary concentrations of pesticide biomarkers. Fruit and vegetable (FV) intake was classified as having high (PRBS≥4) or low (PRBS<4) pesticide residues for 90 men from the EARTH study. Two urine samples per man were analyzed for seven biomarkers of organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides, and the herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. We used generalized estimating equations to analyze the association of the PRBS with urinary concentrations of pesticide biomarkers. Urinary concentrations of pesticide biomarkers were positively related to high pesticide FV intake but inversely related to low pesticide FV intake. The molar sum of urinary concentrations of pesticide biomarkers was 21% (95% confidence interval (CI): 2%, 44%) higher for each one serving/day increase in high pesticide FV intake, and 10% (95% CI: 1%, 18%) lower for each one serving/day increase in low pesticide FV intake. Furthermore, intake of high pesticide FVs positively related to most individual urinary biomarkers. Our findings support the usefulness of the PRBS approach to characterize dietary exposure to select pesticides.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge Mark Davis and William Roman (CDC, Atlanta, GA) for their technical assistance with pesticide biomarkers measurements. We also acknowledge all members of the EARTH study team, specifically the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health research staff Jennifer Ford, Myra Keller, and Ramace Dadd, physicians and staff at Massachusetts General Hospital fertility center. A special thank you to all of the study participants. Yu-Han Chiu gratefully acknowledges the doctoral scholarship from the Irene M. and Fredrick J. Stare Nutrition Education Fund. This research was funded by NIH grants R01ES022955, R01ES009718 and P01ES000002 from NIEHS and P30DK046200 from NIDDK; Harvard National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Center for Environmental Health Pilot Project Program. Qi Sun was supported by NIH grants ES021372 and ES022981. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Jorge E Chavarro.

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Chiu, YH., Williams, P., Mínguez-Alarcón, L. et al. Comparison of questionnaire-based estimation of pesticide residue intake from fruits and vegetables with urinary concentrations of pesticide biomarkers. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 28, 31–39 (2018).

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