Pesticides associated with wheeze among commercial pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study

Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Jun 15;163(12):1129-37. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwj138. Epub 2006 Apr 12.


Pesticides are potential risk factors for respiratory disease among farmers, but farmers are also exposed to other respiratory toxicants. To explore the association of pesticides with wheeze in a population without other farming exposures, the authors analyzed data from 2,255 Iowa commercial pesticide applicators enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study. Controlling for age, smoking status, asthma and atopy history, and body mass index, the authors calculated odds ratios for the relationship between wheeze and 36 individual pesticides participants had used during the year before enrollment (1993-1997). Eight of 16 herbicides were associated with wheeze in single-agent models; however, the risk was almost exclusively associated with the herbicide chlorimuron-ethyl (odds ratio (OR) = 1.62, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.25, 2.10). Inclusion of chlorimuron-ethyl in models for the other herbicides virtually eliminated the associations. The odds ratios for four organophosphate insecticides (terbufos, fonofos, chlorpyrifos, and phorate) were elevated when these chemicals were modeled individually and remained elevated, though attenuated somewhat, when chlorimuron-ethyl was included. The association for dichlorvos, another organophosphate insecticide, was not attenuated by chlorimuron-ethyl (OR = 2.48, 95% CI: 1.08, 5.66). Dose-response trends were observed for chlorimuron-ethyl, chlorpyrifos, and phorate; the strongest odds ratio was for applying chlorpyrifos on more than 40 days per year (OR = 2.40, 95% CI: 1.24, 4.65). These results add to the emerging literature linking organophosphate insecticides and respiratory health and suggest a role for chlorimuron-ethyl.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iowa / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Pyrimidines / adverse effects*
  • Respiratory Sounds*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds / adverse effects*


  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Pesticides
  • Pyrimidines
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds
  • chlorimuron ethyl