Distribution of fipronil in humans, and adverse health outcomes of in utero fipronil sulfone exposure in newborns

Young Ah Kim, Yeong Sook Yoon, Hee Sun Kim, Se Jeong Jeon, Elizabeth Cole, Jeongsun Lee, Younglim Kho, Yoon Hee Cho

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44 Scopus citations


Fipronil is a highly effective insecticide with extensive usages; however, its distribution and toxic/health effects in the human population after chronic exposure have not yet been clearly identified. Our objectives were to determine the levels of serum fipronil and fipronil sulfone, a primary fipronil metabolite, in a general and sensitive human population using a birth cohort of parent-infant triads in Korea. We further investigated whether in utero exposure to fipronil and fipronil sulfone can affect health outcomes in newborn infants. Blood and umbilical cord blood from 169 participants, 59 mother-neonate pairs and 51 matching biological fathers, were collected; serum fipronil and fipronil sulfone (both blood and cord blood) and serum thyroid hormones (cord blood) were measured. Demographic, physiological, behavioral, clinical, and socioeconomic data for each participant were collected via a one-on-one interview and a questionnaire survey. Fipronil sulfone was detected in the serum of mothers, fathers, and infantile cord blood, while fipronil itself was not. Maternal fipronil sulfone levels were correlated to those of matched biological fathers and newborn infants. Adjusted analyses identified significant associations between parental fipronil sulfone levels and household income. Infantile fipronil sulfone levels were significantly associated with both maternal and paternal levels as well as maternal pre-pregnant BMI. Furthermore, infantile fipronil sulfone levels were inversely associated with cord blood T3 and free T3 levels as well as 5-min Apgar scores of newborn infants. Serum fipronil sulfone was detected in a specific population of mother-neonate pairs and their matched biological fathers in a manner suggestive of regular exposure to fipronil among urban residents. The findings also suggest that serum fipronil sulfone placentally transfers to the fetus and affects infantile adverse health outcomes. This is a first of its kind study; therefore, future studies are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-532
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Birth cohort
  • Fipronil
  • Fipronil sulfone
  • Infantile health outcomes
  • Placentally transfer


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