A large scale contamination of chicken eggs by fipronil occurred in Belgium in 2017, while it is not expected to find this pesticide in the food chain. The extent and the duration of the contamination are unknown. A recent pilot study indicates that fipronil has been detected in an important part of the study population. We therefore cannot exclude that the Belgian population could be more exposed to fipronil than expected. The aim of this study is to evaluate the exposure to fipronil and other pesticides in the Belgian population, by mean of a human biomonitoring in serum.
Fipronil is a broad-spectrum insecticide that belongs to the phenylpyrazole chemical family. It has been on the market since 1993 and is commonly used in veterinary products against lice, ticks, fleas for pets. It is also registered in Belgium as biocide for ants and cockroaches. Its exact mode of action is unknown. This insecticide would interfere with the chloride ion channel regulated through the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and disrupt the passage of chloride ions through it, resulting in uncontrolled central nervous system activity and subsequent death of the insect.
Although selectively toxic to insects, fipronil may also have effects on mammals. It may, among other things, interfere with the normal functioning of GABA receptors. After repeated oral exposure, toxic effects may affect the central nervous system (all species), the liver (rat & dog) and the thyroid (rat).
Beginning of June 2017, an egg processing company in Belgium informed the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FAVV/AFSCA) about the suspected presence of fipronil in eggs. The use of fipronil in the production of food for human consumption is illegal in Europe. It is believed the substance was introduced to poultry farms in Belgium and the Netherlands in an attempt to treat red lice, a nasty parasite in chickens. In Belgium, the substance was detected in eggs from several companies, but in small concentrations. In August 2017, following a first assessment, FAVV/AFSCA communicated that there was currently no evidence of danger to public health.
The extent and the duration of fipronil use are still to be further explained. The aim of this study is to evaluate the exposure to fipronil and other pesticides in the Belgian population, by mean of a human biomonitoring in serum.
- To assess the concentrations of fipronil and other pesticides in serum in the general population in Belgium.
- To assess the exposure trends to fipronil and other pesticides in the population during the last six years.
- To compare exposure to fipronil and other pesticides according to age and to regions, with a particular attention on children (vulnerable group).
- To identify potential markers (determinants) of exposure to fipronil and other pesticides in serum on the basis of individual samples.