Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Raymond D. Harbison, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas E. Bernard, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stuart M. Brooks, M.D.


Organophosphates, Malaoxon, Medfly, Toxic exposure, Swimming pool


Malathion is a commonly used organophosphate pesticide on field crops, fruits, nut trees, vegetables, livestock, agricultural premises, and land. The approved uses also include mosquito and medfly control. These uses can result in human skin contact. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the human skin absorption of malathion for the purpose of assessing the risks associated with aqueous solution exposures following applications. Aerial applications can result in solubilized malathion in swimming pools and other waters that may be contacted. Human volunteers were selected and exposed to aqueous solutions of malathion at various concentrations. Participants submerged their arms and hands in twenty liters of dilute malathion solution in either a stagnant or stirred environment. The "disappearance method" was applied by measuring malathion concentrations in the water before and after human subject exposure to the water for various periods of time. Malathion was measured using Gas Chromatography. No measurable skin absorption was detected in 42% of the participants. Measurable skin absorption among the remaining 58% of participants resulted in doses that were more than an order of magnitude less than the minimal dose necessary to cause a measurable change in red blood cell acetylcholinesterase (RBC-AChE). Extrapolation of these results to a mathematical model for recreational swimmers and bathers exposed to contaminated swimming pools and surface waters typically detected after bait application again are an order of magnitude below the doses needed to cause a detectable change in RBC-AChE. These data indicate that exposure to aqueous malathion following usual aerial bait applications is not appreciably absorbed, and therefore, it is not a public health hazard.