Hair versus urine for the biomonitoring of pesticide exposure: Results from a pilot cohort study on pregnant women

Emilie M. Hardy, Clémentine Dereumeaux, Laurence Guldner, Olivier Briand, Stéphanie Vandentorren, Amivi Oleko, Cécile Zaros, Brice M.R. Appenzeller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Aim: The quantitative assessment of human exposure to contaminants such as pesticides is a crucial step in the characterization of exposure-associated risk. For this purpose, biomonitoring is often privileged as it presents the advantage of integrating all the possible sources and routes of exposure and of being representative of the internal dose resulting from exposure. Although biological fluids such as urine and blood have been used to date for this purpose, increasing interest has also been observed over the past decade for hair analysis. The present work aimed at comparing the information obtained from the analysis of urine versus hair regarding exposure to pesticides in a pilot cohort of pregnant women. Methods: In ninety-three pregnant women included in the pilot of the French cohort ELFE, one urine and one hair sample were collected simultaneously from each subject at the maternity. Samples were analyzed using GC–MS/MS analytical methods allowing for the detection of both parent pesticides and metabolites, and designed to be as similar as possible between urine and hair for reliable inter-matrix comparison. Fifty-two biomarkers of exposure were targeted, including parents and metabolites of organochlorines, organophosphates, pyrethroids, carbamates, phenylpyrazoles and other pesticides. Results: The number of different compounds detected ranged from 16 to 27 (median = 22) in hair, and from 3 to 22 (median = 12) in urine. In hair, 24 compounds were found in > 40% of the individuals, whereas only 12 compounds presented the same frequency of detection in urine. Among the chemicals detected in > 80% of both hair and urine samples, only one (pentachlorophenol) showed a signification correlation between hair and urine concentrations. Conclusions: The present results highlight the multiple exposure of the pregnant women included in this cohort and suggest that hair provides more comprehensive information on pesticide exposure than urine analysis. This study thus supports the relevance of hair analysis in future epidemiological studies investigating association between exposure and adverse health effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106481
Pages (from-to)106481
JournalEnvironment international
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Exposure assessment
  • Hair
  • Human biomonitoring
  • Pesticides
  • Urine


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