Malathion Exposure Linked to Increased Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Risk: Study

Pesticide used in mosquito-control measures and also sold as a head lice treatment under the brand name Ovide has been linked to kidney side effects.

The findings of a new study suggests that exposure to Malathion, a commonly used agricultural pesticide, may cause kidney damage.

Malathion is an organophosphate (OP) used as an insecticide on farms, to control insects which feed off of crops, and to also control mosquito populations and mosquito-borne diseases. It is also sold under the brand name Ovide for the treatment of head lice.

First approved for use in the U.S. in 1956, Malathion remains one of the most widely used organophosphate pesticide in the U.S.

In this latest study, researchers from Australia found an association between Malathion and an increased risk of low kidney function and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Their findings were published late last month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The researchers looked at data on nearly 42,000 people using the USA National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They compared data on kidney function among that population with their exposure to a variety of pesticides, including Malathion, 2,4-D, trichloropyridinol and 3-PBA.

According to the findings, Malathion was linked to a more than 25% increased risk of low kidney function. In addition, the increased risk from Malathion remained even when researchers accounted for factors such as diabetes, hypertension and other health issues which could reduce kidney function.

The other pesticides showed no sign of increased kidney disease risk.

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The researchers also noted they found a case of acute kidney injury and nephrotic syndrome after malathion inhalation for 15 days, which appears to potentially confirm some fears that it is nephrotoxic; meaning it is damaging to the kidneys. Previous studies have also suggested organophosphates were nephrotoxic in animals due to oxidative stress.

“This study provides evidence that exposure to OP malathion increases the risk of low kidney function in the general US population,” the researchers concluded. “There is a need to explore the interaction between pesticide exposure (acute and chronic) and other CKD risk factors, such as diabetes, blood pressure, heat stress, and environmental toxins. Further research is required to investigate if other pesticides are associated with kidney function loss in longitudinal studies, and in a range of exposure settings.”


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