OBJECTIVES: This study presents criteria for assessing the individual pesticide burden of workers in the chemical industry. METHODS: A group of 1003 workers exposed to methylparathion or ethylparathion (alkyl phosphates), propoxur (carbamate), or cyfluthrin (pyrethroid) was investigated. After exposure to methylparathion or ethylparathion the methylparathion or ethylparathion and methylparaoxon or ethylparaoxon concentrations in plasma, the p-nitrophenol concentration in urine, and the activities of cholinesterase and acetylcholinesterase were measured. For exposure to propoxur the propoxur concentration in plasma, the 2-isopropoxyphenol concentration in urine, and the cholinesterase and acetylcholinesterase activities were measured. For exposure to cyfluthrin the cyfluthrin concentration in plasma was measured. RESULTS: At the same propoxur concentration only workers with a low individual acetylcholinesterase activity reported symptoms. Workers who metabolised cyfluthrin rapidly reported less symptoms than workers with a lower rate of metabolism. This tendency was also evident in cases of mixed exposure (cyfluthrin and methylparathion). CONCLUSIONS: In the assessment of exposure to pesticides susceptibility of the individual person has to be considered.
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