Exposure to a pesticide found in pet shampoos, lice treatments and mosquito repellents may lead to an early death, research suggests.
Scientists from the University of Iowa looked at the health impact of a controversial class of insecticides called pyrethroids.
In a study of more than 2,000 people, the team found those with markers of the pesticides in their urine were 56% more likely to die over the next 13-to-16 years.
Their risk of dying from a heart-related cause specifically was three times higher, the results show.
Used in farming and at-home pest control, pyrethroids make up 30% of all pesticides sprayed worldwide.
The equally controversial organophosphates are used less and less residentially, causing pyrethroids-based products to spike.
This comes after the organophosphate-based weed killer Roundup was found to cause a man’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with a judge ordering its manufacturer Monsanto to pay $25m (£19m) in damages.
As well as warding off insects, pyrethroids are thought to have no short term health effects.
Yet, “the consequences of chronic exposure to pyrethroids on long-term health outcomes in humans remain to be determined”, the scientists wrote in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Studies suggest the pesticide class may trigger infertility, diabetes and heart disease.
It is found in “household and garden insecticides, pet sprays and shampoos, lice treatments, and mosquito repellents”, the scientists claim.
To learn more about its long term impact, they had a group of adults provide a urine sample at some point between 1999 and 2002.
Pyrethroids can enter the body via inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption. The body breaks them down, with them being excreted via urine a few hours later.
The participants were followed until 2015, during which time 246 died.
Results suggest those with the highest levels of pyrethroid markers in their urine were more likely to die than those with the lowest amount.
This remained true after the scientists adjusted for age, diet, BMI and other lifestyle factors.
No link was found between pyrethroid exposure and dying from cancer.
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“In this nationally representative sample of [United States] adults, environmental exposure to pyrethroid insecticides was associated with an increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality,” the scientists wrote.
“Other than cigarette smoking, few, if any, chemical exposures are known to trigger a [threefold] increase in the risk of death from heart disease.
“In New York City and elsewhere, aerial spraying for mosquito control to prevent West Nile virus and other vector-borne illnesses is largely based on pyrethroids.
“This study challenges the assumption that such exposures are safe.
“The results warrant immediate further investigation”.
When checking a product’s label, pyrethroid’s common names almost always end in -thrin or -ate, according to the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.
Examples include allethrin, resmethrin, permethrin, cyfluthrin and esfenvalerate.