Retinal degeneration and other eye disorders in wives of farmer pesticide applicators enrolled in the agricultural health study

Am J Epidemiol. 2005 Jun 1;161(11):1020-9. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwi140.


Retinal degeneration is the leading cause of visual impairment in older adults. An association between retinal degeneration and fungicide use was observed previously among farmer pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study, a large study of farm families from Iowa and North Carolina. The objective of this investigation was to determine whether wives of these farmer pesticide applicators were at increased risk of retinal degeneration. Self-reported cross-sectional data obtained via questionnaire between 1993 and 1997 from 31,173 wives were used. Associations of specific pesticides and groups of pesticides based on function (fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and fumigants) or chemical structure (organophosphates, organochlorines, and carbamates) with eye disorders were evaluated using logistic and hierarchical logistic regression analyses. Self-reported retinal degeneration was associated with the wife's fungicide use (odds ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence interval: 1.2, 3.1) after adjustment for age and state of residence. Specific fungicides that appeared to drive this association were maneb or mancozeb and ziram. No associations between pesticide use and other eye disorders were found. Although these findings for retinal degeneration are based solely on self-reported disease, they are consistent with those reported for farmer pesticide applicators. These findings suggest that exposure to some fungicides and other pesticides may increase the risk of retinal degeneration and warrant further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agriculture
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Eye Diseases / epidemiology
  • Eye Diseases / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iowa / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retinal Degeneration / epidemiology
  • Retinal Degeneration / etiology*
  • Spouses


  • Pesticides