Pesticide residues in adults living near a bioenergy plant with 85,000 tons of contaminated wetcake

Muhammad Zahid, Jabeen Taiba, Khiara Cox, Ali S. Khan, Terra Uhing, Eleanor Rogan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neonicotinoid insecticide use is on the rise worldwide due to its broad-spectrum insecticidal action and exclusive approach of neurotoxic action. Besides application during the cultivation of several crops, all seed companies coat their seeds with neonicotinoids to have increased protection against insects during germination. Despite reduced mammalian toxicity, neonicotinoids have harmful effects on non-target non-mammalian organisms such as bees, an essential part of maintaining the ecosystem. In addition, epidemiologic studies have linked human exposure to neonicotinoids with poor developmental and neurological outcomes. Starting in 2015, the AltEn bioenergy plant near Mead, Nebraska, USA, used coated seeds for their ethanol production and failed to properly dispose of byproducts, causing environmental contamination that still exists. This pilot study reports the human urinary levels of neonicotinoids in samples collected during 2022–2023 in the population living in areas close to this now-closed bioenergy plant. Our results show that approximately 30% of the urine samples are contaminated with at least one of the targeted neonicotinoids or their transformed products. The most frequently detected parent neonicotinoid was clothianidin, which accounts for 13% of the samples. However, 5-hydroxy-imidacloprid, the transformed imidacloprid product, is detected in 27% of the samples, ranging from 1.2 to 42 ng/mL. In conclusion, the environmental contamination near Mead, Nebraska, due to improper storage and disposal of highly contaminated byproducts, puts the nearby population at risk from continuous exposure to neonicotinoids through air and dust particles and possible water contamination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number140941
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Contaminated air
  • Contaminated dust
  • Contaminated water
  • Health effects
  • Neonicotinoids
  • Urine sample

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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