Pesticide exposure and women's health

Am J Ind Med. 2003 Dec;44(6):584-94. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10256.


Background: Research on pesticide-related health effects has been mostly focused in industrialized countries and in men. This paper discusses critical issues related to women's pesticide exposure and its effects on women's health.

Methods: The literature on pesticides was reviewed with emphasis on data related to women. Attention was focused on research suggesting different conditions of exposure or different response to pesticides by sex. Studies on cancer and reproductive effects were used as illustrative examples.

Results: Women are increasingly exposed to pesticides in developing countries, where women's poisoning and other pesticide-related injuries seem to be greatly underestimated. Many of the effects of pesticides in human health will be the same for men and women, but not always. Some organochlorine pesticides have been related to breast cancer in post-menopausal women. However, knowledge about other pesticides is much more limited. Epidemiological studies assessing maternal exposure to individual pesticides and abortion, fetal death, or congenital defects are not conclusive, although some suggestive associations have been observed.

Conclusions: Gender-sensitive research is needed to properly address the study of women's pesticide exposures and related adverse outcomes. A better understanding of potential gender-environment and sex-environment interactions related to pesticide exposure and health effects in women is needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Teratogens*


  • Pesticides
  • Teratogens