Evaluating imidacloprid exposure among grape field male workers using biological and environmental assessment tools: An exploratory study

Nicolás López-Gálvez, Rietta Wagoner, Robert A. Canales, Jill de Zapien, Antonia M. Calafat, Maria Ospina, Cecilia Rosales, Paloma Beamer

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Imidacloprid is a neonicotinoid insecticide commonly injected through agricultural drip irrigation systems to reduce the population of vine mealybugs (P. ficus) in grape farms. There is a growing concern of potential human health effects of imidacloprid, however, there is limited information on the exposure to imidacloprid in farm workers. Imidacloprid exposure was evaluated in this exploratory study of 20 male migrant grape workers sampled five days after imidacloprid was injected in the irrigation system during winter and summer seasons. We administered a questionnaire on work activities, exposure characteristics, and socio-demographics and collected personal air, hand wipe, and spot urine samples. Heat exposure was also assessed. Spearman's correlation coefficients and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests were utilized to evaluate associations and differences in imidacloprid exposures with socio-demographic, occupational, and environmental characteristics. All participants had less than a high school education and about half identified an Indigenous language as their primary language. Although not detected in air samples, imidacloprid was detected in 85% of the hand wipes (median: 0.26: 0.41 μg/wipe, range: 0.05–7.10 μg/wipe). The majority of participants (75%) had detectable urinary concentrations of imidacloprid (median: 0.11 μg/g creatinine, range: 0.05–3.90 μg/g of creatinine), and nearly all (95%) had detectable urinary concentrations of 5-hydroxy-Imidacloprid (5-OH-IMI), a metabolite of imidacloprid (median: 1.28 μg/g creatinine, range: 0.20–27.89 μg/g creatinine). There was a significant correlation (p < 0.001) between imidacloprid in hand wipes and urinary imidacloprid and 5-OH-IMI (rs: 0.67 for imidacloprid and 0.80 for 5-OH-IMI). Hand temperature was significantly and positively correlated (p < 0.05) with imidacloprid concentration on hand wipes (rs: 0.70), and urinary biomarkers (rs: 0.68 for imidacloprid, and 0.60 for 5-OH-IMI) suggesting that working in high temperatures may influence the exposure and absorption of imidacloprid. Thus, research on farm workers would benefit in the future by evaluating imidacloprid exposure in relation to heat stress and other occupational factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113625
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Farm workers
  • Imidacloprid
  • Neonicotinoids
  • Occupational health
  • Pesticide exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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