Hair analysis for the biomonitoring of pesticide exposure: comparison with blood and urine in a rat model

Brice M.R. Appenzeller*, Emilie M. Hardy, Nathalie Grova, Caroline Chata, François Faÿs, Olivier Briand, Henri Schroeder, Radu Corneliu Duca

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Urine and plasma have been used to date for the biomonitoring of exposure to pollutants and are still the preferred fluids for this purpose; however, these fluids mainly provide information on the short term and may present a high level of variability regarding pesticide concentrations, especially for nonpersistent compounds. Hair analysis may provide information about chronic exposure that is averaged over several months; therefore, this method has been proposed as an alternative to solely relying on these fluids. Although the possibility of detecting pesticides in hair has been demonstrated over the past few years, the unknown linkage between exposure and pesticides concentration in hair has limited the recognition of this matrix as a relevant tool for assessing human exposure. Based on a rat model in which there was controlled exposure to a mixture of pesticides composed of lindane, β-hexachlorocyclohexane, β-endosulfan, p,p′-DDT, p,p′-DDE, dieldrin, pentachlorophenol, diazinon, chlorpyrifos, cyhalothrin, permethrin, cypermethrin, propiconazole, fipronil, oxadiazon, diflufenican, trifluralin, carbofuran, and propoxur, the current work demonstrates the association between exposure intensity and resulting pesticide concentration in hair. We also compared the results obtained from a hair analysis to urine and plasma collected from the same rats. Hair, blood, and urine were collected from rats submitted to 90-day exposure by gavage to the aforementioned mixture of common pesticides at different levels. We observed a linear relationship between exposure intensity and the concentration of pesticides in the rats’ hair (RPearson 0.453–0.978, p < 0.01). A comparison with results from urine and plasma samples demonstrated the relevance of hair analysis and, for many chemicals, its superiority over using fluids for differentiating animals from different groups and for re-attributing animals to their correct groups of exposure based on pesticide concentrations in the matrix. Therefore, this study strongly supports hair analysis as a reliable tool to be used during epidemiological studies to investigate exposure-associated adverse health effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2813-2825
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Biomonitoring
  • Exposure
  • Hair analysis
  • Pesticide
  • Plasma
  • Urine


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