Chronic exposure to pesticides: Permethrin

"Biocides" products are pesticides that are authorised for use by the general public.

Biocides are present in many everyday goods and products. Consumers are not necessarily aware of their presence in the objects they buy: bedding, wood, furniture, floors, carpets, etc.

They can also be used intentionally as insecticides to control mosquitoes, cockroaches or as fungicides to control mould.

The category of biocides also includes products that are used professionally and to control different types of pests.

Permethrin has been officially banned since 2003 in the European Union for agricultural uses, but remains authorised for biocidal uses.
It is not particularly persistent, with a half-life of around 40 days, so the permethrin we are exposed to today is not from agricultural use.

What is permethrin?

Permethrin (CAS 52645-53-1) is a synthetic insecticide of the pyrethroid family whose chemical structure is based on the natural molecules of the pyrethrin family that are produced by plants of the chrysanthemum family such as Dalmatian pyrethrum.

Which products include permethrin?

Permethrin is a widely used biocide and can be found in :

  •     Veterinary treatments such as flea / tick control (pipette or collar) for dogs. Be careful, permethrin is very toxic and sometimes fatal for cats!
  •     Preventive treatments for wood against wood-eating insects.
  •     Treatment of bedding, for example mattress covers (anti-mite), pillows, mosquito nets, etc.
  •     Treatments against mosquitoes (diffuser, spiral, spray) or cockroaches.

"Permethrin is present in the dust of a large number of homes and we are exposed to it every day.

Analyses carried out by the Observatoire de la Qualité de l'Air Intérieur (OQAI) on domestic dusts in France show that permethrin is present in all the dwellings studied. These results have been confirmed by other studies.

How to measure exposure to permethrin?

Only a laboratory analysis of a biological sample can assess personal exposure to permethrin.

The analysis of a strand of hair will provide information on exposure to this pollutant over a period of several months.

What is the population's exposure to this insecticide?

At the European level, a study of 6 countries (Belgium, France, Wales, Italy, Denmark and Germany) shows that 19% of the hair samples analysed contain traces of permethrin.
This rate rose to 36% for hair samples from France and 25% for those from Italy.

"Permethrin is one of the main insecticides to which humans are exposed

A recent study in France is more alarming with 87% of French children's hair samples including traces of permethrin.

This exposure is international and also affects China, with 61% of women in the Dalian region and 89% in the Baoding region.

What are the effects of permethrin exposure on humans?

Permethrin is now considered moderately toxic for acute exposure and the acceptable daily intake has been set at 0.05 mg per day per kg of body weight.

The University of Hertfordshire Pesticide Database indicates that permethrin is neurotoxic, may have developmental and reproductive effects and endocrine disrupting effects on estrogenic hormones and is probably carcinogenic.

No evaluation by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been published on permethrin to confirm the carcinogenicity of this chemical.

It is therefore recommended that pregnant women and children limit their exposure to this endocrine disruptor as much as possible.

Measuring your exposure to permethrin by hair analysis is the easiest way to assess your exposure, become aware of your personal situation and act to limit the risks to your health and that of your family.

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