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Urinary pesticide concentrations in French adults with low and high organic food consumption: results from the general population-based NutriNet-Santé

Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology (2018) | Download Citation



An organic diet may reduce dietary exposure to pesticides but findings based on observational data are scant. We aimed to compare urinary pesticide concentrations between “organic” and “conventional” consumers from the NutriNet-Santé study. Organic food consumption was determined using a self-reported food frequency questionnaire. Individuals with a proportion of organic food in the whole diet (in g/d) below 10% were defined as low organic food consumers and those whose proportion was above 50% as high organic food consumers. A propensity score matching procedure was then used to obtain two similar subsets of 150 participants, differing mostly by the organic valence of their diet. Urinary pesticide and metabolite concentrations (organophosphorus, pyrethroid, and azole compounds) were determined by UPLC-MS/MS, standardized with respect to creatinine. The molar sums of total diethylphosphates, dimethylphosphates, and dialkylphosphates were also computed. Differences in distributions across groups were tested using Wilcoxon signed-rank test for matched data. Mean age was 58.5 years and 70% of participants were women. Significantly lower urinary levels of diethylthiophosphate, dimethylthiophosphate, dialkylphosphates, and free 3-phenoxybenzoic acid were observed among organic consumers compared to conventional consumers. Our findings confirm that exposure to certain organophosphate and pyrethroïd pesticides in adults may be lowered by switching from conventional to organic foods. This is particularly of high interest among conventional fruit and vegetable consumers, as their exposure may be the highest.

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We thank all the people who helped carry out the NutriNet-Santé study and all the dedicated and conscientious volunteers. We especially thank Younes Esseddik, Paul Flanzy, Véronique Gourlet, Nathalie Arnault, Fabien Szabo, Laurent Bourhis and Cédric Agaesse.

Author contributions

The author contributions were as follows: JPC, SH, EKG, DL and PG conceived and designed the experiments. JB performed the experiments. GD and AD performed the urinary dosages. JB and EKG analyzed the data. JB and EKG wrote the paper. All the authors were involved in interpreting results and editing the manuscript. JB and EKG had primary responsibility for final content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


The BioNutriNet project was supported by the French National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche) in the context of the 2013 Programme de Recherche Systèmes Alimentaires Durables (ANR-13-ALID-0001). The NutriNet-Santé cohort study is funded by the following public institutions: Ministère de la Santé, Santé Publique France, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) and Paris 13 University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Author information


  1. Equipe de Recherche en Epidémiologie Nutritionnelle (EREN), Université Paris 13, Inserm (U1153), Inra (U1125), Centre d’Epidémiologie et Statistiques Sorbonne Paris Cité, Cnam, COMUE Sorbonne-Paris-Cité, F-93017, Bobigny, France

    • Julia Baudry
    • , Nathalie Druesne-Pecollo
    • , Pilar Galan
    • , Serge Hercberg
    •  & Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot
  2. Toxalim, Université de Toulouse, INRA, ENVT, INP-Purpan, UPS, F-31027, Toulouse, France

    • Laurent Debrauwer
    • , Adéline Delcambre
    •  & Jean-Pierre Cravedi
  3. LABOCEA, F-29280, Plouzané, France

    • Gaël Durand
    •  & Gwendolina Limon
  4. Institut Technique de l’Agriculture Biologique (ITAB), F-75595, Paris, France

    • Rodolphe Vidal
    •  & Bruno Taupier-Letage
  5. Département de Santé Publique, Hôpital Avicenne, F-93017, Bobigny, France

    • Serge Hercberg
  6. Aix Marseille Université, INSERM, INRA, C2VN, 13005, Marseille, France

    • Denis Lairon


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Conflict of interest

DL acts since 2018 as a scientific expert, with no honoraria or personal funding, in two non-for-profit foundations recently funded in France («Fondation Bjorg, Bonneterre et citoyens » and « Fond de dotation Institut de l’alimentation bio »).

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Correspondence to Julia Baudry.

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