Incident diabetes and pesticide exposure among licensed pesticide applicators: Agricultural Health Study, 1993-2003

Am J Epidemiol. 2008 May 15;167(10):1235-46. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn028. Epub 2008 Mar 14.


Exposure to certain environmental toxicants may be associated with increased risk of developing diabetes. The authors' aim was to investigate the relation between lifetime exposure to specific agricultural pesticides and diabetes incidence among pesticide applicators. The study included 33,457 licensed applicators, predominantly non-Hispanic White males, enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study. Incident diabetes was self-reported in a 5-year follow-up interview (1999-2003), giving 1,176 diabetics and 30,611 nondiabetics for analysis. Lifetime exposure to pesticides and covariate information were reported by participants at enrollment (1993-1997). Using logistic regression, the authors considered two primary measures of pesticide exposure: ever use and cumulative lifetime days of use. They found seven specific pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, heptachlor, dichlorvos, trichlorfon, alachlor, and cyanazine) for which the odds of diabetes incidence increased with both ever use and cumulative days of use. Applicators who had used the organochlorine insecticides aldrin, chlordane, and heptachlor more than 100 lifetime days had 51%, 63%, and 94% increased odds of diabetes, respectively. The observed association of organochlorine and organophosphate insecticides with diabetes is consistent with results from previous human and animal studies. Long-term exposure from handling certain pesticides, in particular, organochlorine and organophosphate insecticides, may be associated with increased risk of diabetes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Agrochemicals / adverse effects*
  • Agrochemicals / analysis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / chemically induced*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / adverse effects
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Organophosphates / adverse effects
  • Pesticide Residues / adverse effects
  • Pesticide Residues / analysis
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Agrochemicals
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Organophosphates
  • Pesticide Residues
  • Pesticides