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Hypothyroidism and Pesticide Use Among Male Private Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study

Goldner, Whitney S. MD; Sandler, Dale P. PhD; Yu, Fang PhD; Shostrom, Valerie MS; Hoppin, Jane A. PhD; Kamel, Freya PhD; LeVan, Tricia D. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: October 2013 - Volume 55 - Issue 10 - p 1171–1178
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31829b290b
Original Articles

Objective: Evaluate the association between thyroid disease and use of insecticides, herbicides, and fumigants/fungicides in male applicators in the Agricultural Health Study.

Methods: We examined the association between use of 50 specific pesticides and self-reported hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and “other” thyroid disease among 22,246 male pesticide applicators.

Results: There was increased odds of hypothyroidism with ever use of the herbicides 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), 2,4,5-T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid), 2,4,5-TP (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxy-propionic acid), alachlor, dicamba, and petroleum oil. Hypothyroidism was also associated with ever use of eight insecticides: organochlorines chlordane, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), heptachlor, lindane, and toxaphene; organophosphates diazinon and malathion; and the carbamate carbofuran. Exposure–response analysis showed increasing odds with increasing level of exposure for the herbicides alachlor and 2,4-D and the insecticides aldrin, chlordane, DDT, lindane, and parathion.

Conclusion: There is an association between hypothyroidism and specific herbicides and insecticides in male applicators, similar to previous results for spouses.

From the Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism Division (Dr Goldner), Department of Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha; Department of Biostatistics (Dr Yu and Ms Shostrom), College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha; Pulmonary, Critical Care, Sleep, and Allergy Division (Dr LeVan), Departments of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha; Epidemiology Branch (Drs Sandler, Hoppin, and Kamel), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC; and VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System Research Service (Dr LeVan), Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Omaha.

Address correspondence to: Whitney S. Goldner, MD, Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism Division, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 984120 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198 (

This work was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (Z01-ES049030), and National Cancer Institute (Z01-CP-1-119).

None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to disclose.

Copyright © 2013 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine