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Pyrethroid Pesticides

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Chemicals derived from flowers may sound harmless, but new research raises concerns about compounds synthesized from chrysanthemums that are used in virtually every household pesticide. For at least a decade, pyrethroids have been the insecticide of choice for consumers, replacing organophosphate pesticides, which are far more toxic to people and wildlife. But evidence is mounting that the switch to pyrethroids has brought its own set of new ecological and human health risks. Both California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are reevaluating the chemicals because of safety concerns.

About these pesticides

Pyrethrum is an extract (and mixture of substances) derived from chrysanthemum flowers with insecticidal properties. Pyrethrins is a more refined pyrethrum extract, intended to further isolate the insecticidal components of pyrethrum. They work by altering nerve function, which causes paralysis in target insect pests, eventually resulting in death. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemical insecticides whose chemical structures are adapted from the chemical structures of the pyrethrins and act in a similar manner. Pyrethroids are modified to increase their environmental stability and their insecticidal properties.

Ecological risk mitigation

Pyrethroids have been found at acutely toxic levels in sediments and waterways in US waterways. The chemical is able to pass through secondary treatment systems at municipal wastewater treatment facilities causing the chemical to be commonly found in the final effluent. Because the pyrethroids can accumulate in sediments, risk to sediment-dwelling organisms is an area of particular concern.

Registration Review Program

The EPA began reevaluating pyrethroids as part of its 2010 pesticide review. The EPA systematically evaluates all registered pesticides every 15 years. Potential outcomes include banning pyrethroids in certain areas, tightening policies or no change to the regulations. However, the EPA process will take another six to eight years.

Analytical Methodology

Eurofins Calscience currently offers analysis of these Pyrethroids using the latest in Triple Quadrupole GC/MS/MS technology: 

Allethrin Fenpropathrin Phenothrin
Bifenthrin Fenvalerate/Esfenvalerate Resmethrin/Bioresmethrin
Cyfluthrin Fluvalinate Tetramethrin
Cypermethrin lambda-Cyhalothrin  
Deltamethrin/Tralomethrin Permethrin (cis/trans)  

What is a Triple Quad? 

  • A linear series of three quadrupoles (the quadrupole is the component of the instrument responsible for filtering sample ions, based on their mass to charge ratio (m/z); known as a triple quadrupole or “Triple Quad” mass spectrometer.
  • The first (Q1) and third (Q3) quadrupoles act as mass filters
  • The middle (Q2) quadrupole is employed as a collision cell.

MS/MS Triple Quadrupole technology focuses on:

  • Extraction of the ions from the source.
  • Isolation of precursor ions (ions that react to form particular product ions) in the first quadrupole.
  • The second quadrupole is the collision cell which breaks the precursor ions to the products ions.
  • Mass filtering of product ions (ions formed as the product of a reaction involving a particular precursor ion) in the third quadrupole. 

QQQ diagram

The Advantage of using GC/MS/MS:

  • Greater selectivity than SIM
    • Even though the analyte and interference may have the same precursor ion, the dissociation process increases the probability of generating one or more unique product ions for the analyte as compared to the coeluting interference. Using unit mass resolution of Q3, it is easy to ‘filter out’ these product ions)
  • Similar or Lower Detection Limits than SIM
  • Superior selectivity
  • Analysis of target compounds in complex matrices
  • Elimination of possible high bias or false positives
  • Enhanced data defensibility
  • Extremely useful for difficult matrices such as marine sediments and tissues


Please contact Eurofins Calscience if you'd like to learn more about their analysis of pesticides using the triple quad technology.

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