Retinal degeneration in licensed pesticide applicators

Am J Ind Med. 2000 Jun;37(6):618-28. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(200006)37:6<618::aid-ajim6>;2-e.


Background: Retinal degeneration is the leading cause of visual impairment in older adults, but little is known about its relationship to neurotoxic exposures.

Methods: The Agricultural Health Study is a cohort study of licensed pesticide applicators from Iowa and North Carolina. We used cross-sectional data from self-administered questionnaires given at enrollment in 1994-1996 to compare pesticide use in 154 applicators who reported retinal degeneration and 17,804 controls.

Results: Retinal degeneration was associated with fungicide use (odds ratio = 1.8, 95% confidence interval = 1.3-2.6). This relationship was seen in subgroups defined by state, demographic characteristics, or medical history, as well as in the entire group. Risk increased with cumulative days of fungicide use (P for trend = 0.011) and was greater when application methods involving greater personal exposure were used. Retinal degeneration was also related to use of organochlorine or carbamate insecticides, but these associations were less consistent. Since nearly all applicators used organophosphate insecticides and herbicides, these exposures could not be effectively evaluated.

Conclusions: These results suggest that exposure to some fungicides and insecticides may increase risk of retinal degeneration.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iowa
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Retinal Degeneration / chemically induced*
  • Retinal Degeneration / diagnosis


  • Pesticides