Objectives The ingestion of pesticides in the daily diet is assumed to be the main modality of pesticide exposure for most people. A widely used class of pesticides in agricultural or residential settings is pyrethroid. We have examined the relationship between the intake frequency of selected items of vegetables and fruits and urinary metabolites of pyrethroid pesticides in a healthy general population. Methods A total of 535 residents (184 men and 351 women) who attended a healthcare checkup program conducted in a rural area of Hokkaido, Japan, in August 2005 provided informed consent for their spot urine samples to be used for the determination of 3-phenoxybenzoic acid (3-PBA) levels. They also completed a self-administered questionnaire regarding the intake frequency of 12 food items. The concentrations of creatinine-corrected 3-PBA were predicted by the intake frequency of each item, using analysis-of-covariance models to adjust for age, sex, body mass index, and drinking and smoking status. Results Both a significant association between the 3-PBA concentration and the frequency of tomato consumption and a significant positive linear trend was found in female subjects. In contrast, no such association was found in the male subjects. Conclusions The frequency of tomato consumption was confirmed to strongly predict the urinary pyrethroid metabolite levels in the general population\-presumably because tomatoes are most often consumed raw and unpeeled (more so than all other vegetables and fruits analyzed in the current study). However, it should be noted that the 3-PBA levels, even among those subjects with the highest consumption of tomatoes, were far below the levels of toxicological significance, although the health consequences from long-term low-level exposure to pyrethroid requires further exploration.
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