Assessment of Dermal and Inhalation Exposure to Permethrin During Field Treatment of Military Uniforms

Lynnea Jensen, N. Cody Schaal, James English, James Dunford, Alex H. Stubner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Permethrin is a common pesticide spray-applied to civilian clothing and military uniforms for protection against biting arthropods in an effort to reduce risks to arthropod-borne diseases. During mass clothing spray events, exposure is possible through the dermal, inhalation, and ingestion routes. The potentially exposed population during a spray event includes the pesticide applicator(s) and working party (personnel who handle clothing/uniforms by positioning on the ground, flipping, and removing after spraying is complete). Previous investigation is limited regarding permethrin exposure via multiple routes of entry. Additionally, most exposure assessments are limited to pesticide applicators rather than working party that support applicator personnel. The purpose of this investigation was to conduct a multi-route exposure assessment for all personnel normally participating in mass permethrin military uniform treatments. Materials and Methods: The protocol and Informed Consent Document were approved by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) Institutional Review Board (IRB) before fieldwork initiation (IRB number: USUHS.2019-032). Sampling occurred during routine spray events performed by 14 U.S. Navy personnel (3 applicators and 11 working party) over 2 days. Personal exposures were measured with dermal sampling, and airborne concentrations were measured with area air sampling. Permethrin area air sampling and analysis were conducted using OSHA Versatile Sampler-2 sampling media (n=36). Dermal exposure was measured using dosimeter gloves (n=26) and a dermal patch (n=26) worn by study participants. Results: All air samples were reported below the 0.4 μg limit of quantification. Glove sample results ranged from 45 to 120,000 μg and patch results ranged from 0.57 to 45 μg. A repeated-measures ANOVA showed non-statistically significant differences in dermal concentrations (P-value=.8340) between the applicators and working party in patches and gloves. Conclusions: Results suggest dermal contact is the primary route of exposure compared to inhalation when mass spraying clothing with permethrin. Similar dermal exposures between these two occupations may necessitate reconsidering risk assessment procedures, training and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements for mass spray uniform treatments. Specifically, while PPE requirements for applicators are highly regulated by the Armed Forces Pest Management Board and include items such as Tyvek suits, chemical protective gloves, and air-purifying respirators, PPE was not regulated for working party personnel before this investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e228-e234
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


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