Hidden risk of terrestrial food chain contamination from organochlorine insecticides in a vegetable cultivation area of Northwest Bangladesh

Mousumi Akter*, Md Shohidul Alam, Xiaomei Yang, João Pedro Nunes, Paul Zomer, Md Mokhlesur Rahman, Hans Mol, Coen J. Ritsema, Violette Geissen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Organochlorine insecticide (OCI) exposures in terrestrial food chains from historical or current applications were studied in a vegetable production area in northwest Bangladesh. A total of 57 subsoil, 57 topsoil, and 57 vegetable samples, as well as 30 cow's milk samples, were collected from 57 farms. Multiple OCI residues were detected using GC–MS/MS with modified QuEChERS in 20 % of subsoils, 21 % of topsoils, 23 % of vegetables, and 7 % of cow's milk samples. Diversified OCI residues were detected in subsoils (17 residues with a concentration of 179.15 ± 148.61 μg kg−1) rather than in topsoils (3 DDT residues with a concentration of 25.76 ± 20.19 μg kg−1). Isomeric ratios indicate intensive historical applications of OCIs. According to Dutch and Chinese standards, the lower concentrations of individual OCI residues in the soil indicate negligible to slight soil pollution, assuming local farmers follow local pesticide use regulations. However, a maximum of 78.24 μg kg−1 ΣAldrines and 35.57 μg kg−1 ΣHCHs were detected (1–4 residues) in 60 % of brinjal, 28 % of cucumber, 29 % of sponge gourd, and 20 % of lady's finger samples, which could be a result of either historical or current OCI applications, or both. A strong positive correlation between aldrines in subsoils and cucurbit vegetables indicates greater bioaccumulation. Cow milk samples contained up to 6.96 μg kg−1 ΣDDTs, which resulted either from rationing contaminated vegetables or grazing on contaminated land. Individual OCI in both vegetables and cow's milk was below the respective maximum residue limits of US and FAO/WHO CODEX and poses little or no risk to human health. However, combined exposure to multiple pesticides could increase human health risks. A cumulative health risk assessment of multiple pesticide residues is suggested to assess the suitability of those soils for cultivation and grazing, as well as the safety of vegetables and cow's milk for human consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Article number169343
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2024


  • Agricultural soils
  • Cow's milk
  • Multiple residues
  • Organochlorine insecticides
  • Vegetables


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