Exposure of flight attendants to pyrethroid insecticides on commercial flights: Urinary metabolite levels and implications

Binnian Wei, Krishnan R. Mohan, Clifford Weisel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Pyrethroid insecticides have been used for disinsection of commercial aircrafts. However, little is known about the pyrethroids exposure of flight attendants. The objective of the study was to assess pyrethroids exposure of flight attendants working on commercial aircrafts through monitoring the urinary pyrethroids metabolite levels. Eighty four urine samples were collected from 28 flight attendants, 18-65 years of age, with seventeen working on planes that were non-disinsected, and eleven working on planes that had been disinsected. Five urinary metabolites of pyrethroids were measured using gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric method: 3-phenoxybenzoic acid (3-PBA), . cis-/. trans-3-(2,2-Dichlorovinyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclo-propane carboxylic acid (. cis-/. trans-Cl2CA), . cis-3-(2,2-dibromovinyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclo-propane-1-carboxylic acid (c. is-Br2CA) and 4-fluoro-3-phenoxybenzoic acid (4F-3-PBA). Flight attendants working on disinsected planes had significantly higher urinary levels of 3-PBA, . cis- and . trans-Cl2CA in pre, post- and 24-h-post flight samples than those on planes which did not report having been disinsected. Urinary levels of . cis-Br2CA and 4F-3-PBA did not show significant differences between the two groups. Flight attendants working on international flights connected to Australia had higher urinary levels of 3-PBA, . cis- and . trans-Cl2CA than those on either domestic and other international flights flying among Asia, Europe and North America. Post-disinsection duration (number of days from disinsection date to flight date) was the most significant factor affecting the urinary pyrethroid metabolites levels of 3-PBA, . cis- and . trans-Cl2CA of the group flying on disinsected aircraft. It was concluded that working on commercial aircraft disinsected by pyrethroids resulted in elevated body burdens of 3-PBA, . cis- and . trans-Cl2CA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-473
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • 3-PBA
  • Disinsection
  • Flight attendant
  • Metabolite
  • Permethrin
  • Pesticide
  • Pyrethroid

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