Characterising glyphosate exposures among amenity horticulturists using multiple spot urine samples

Alison Connolly, Ioannis Basinas, Kate Jones, Karen S Galea, Laura Kenny, Padraic McGowan, Marie A Coggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Glyphosate has recently received much public attention following its 'Group 2A - probably carcinogenic to humans' classification from the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Despite the widespread use of glyphosate, there is limited data on potential exposures during common occupational uses.

OBJECTIVE: The study aimed to characterise occupational exposures to glyphosate among amenity horticulturists through the collection and analysis of urine samples following pesticide application. The impact of work practices on personal exposure, as well as suitability of collecting multiple spot urine samples as a sampling strategy for the assessment of occupational exposure for glyphosate were also examined.

METHODS: A minimum of three spot urine samples were collected per work task; before the work task began, after the work task completion and the following first morning void. All samples were analysed separately for glyphosate using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry and for creatinine. Differences in urinary glyphosate concentrations between the pre-task samples versus the post-task and the peak urinary samples were both analysed using paired Student t-tests. Determinants of exposure on glyphosate urine concentrations were evaluated using Pearson's correlation coefficients and linear regression. A multivariate mixed effect model were elaborated to compare the glyphosate concentrations between post-task and following first morning void samples. In these models, worker identity was entered as a random effect to account for the presence of correlations between repeated measurements from the same individuals.

RESULTS: Peak urine glyphosate concentrations measured for work tasks were 2.5, 1.9, 1.9 and 7.4 μg L-1 (arithmetic mean, geometric mean, median and maximum value, respectively). Concentrations were highest in samples taken up to 3 h after completing the work task. Regression analysis showed that workers who sprayed the day before the sampling task had higher glyphosate concentrations in pre-task samples than those who did not spray the day before (p < 0.01). Similarly, workers who took breaks during the work task had higher peak urinary glyphosate concentrations (p < 0.01). The multivariate mixed effect model showed that the following first morning void samples were approximately a factor 0.7 lower than post-task values.

CONCLUSION: Occupational exposures to glyphosate among amenity horticulturalists are greater than those reported in environmental studies and comparable with previously reported agricultural studies. A suitable sampling strategy for occupational exposures to glyphosate is the collection of a spot urine sample up to 3 h after completing the application of a glyphosate based pesticide product, which provides a reliable marker of peak exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1012-1022
Number of pages11
JournalInternational journal of hygiene and environmental health
Issue number7
Early online date8 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Adult
  • Agriculture
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Glycine/analogs & derivatives
  • Herbicides/urine
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure/analysis


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