Association of occupational pesticide exposure with accelerated longitudinal decline in lung function

Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Jun 1;179(11):1323-30. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu053. Epub 2014 Apr 29.


Cross-sectional studies have shown that occupational exposure to vapors, gases, dusts, and fumes (VGDF) and pesticides is associated with a lower level of lung function. These associations seem to be stronger in ever smokers. In the current study, we aimed to assess whether occupational exposure to VGDF and pesticides is associated with longitudinal decline in lung function. We used 12,772 observations from 2,527 participants in the Vlagtwedde-Vlaardingen Study, a general-population-based cohort study that followed subjects for 25 years, from 1965 to the last survey in 1989/1990. Job-specific exposure was estimated with the ALOHA+ job exposure matrix. Associations between exposures and annual changes in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and FEV1 as a percentage of inspiratory vital capacity (FEV1%VC) were assessed with linear mixed-effect models including sex, age, and level of lung function at the first measurement and pack-years of smoking at the last measurement. We tested for interaction between smoking and occupational exposure and assessed associations separately for never smokers and ever smokers. Exposure to VGDF was not associated with accelerated lung function decline after adjustment for co-exposure to pesticides. Exposure to pesticides, both in the last-held job and as a cumulative measure, was associated with accelerated decline in FEV1 and FEV1%VC, especially among ever smokers, where we found an excess change in FEV1 of -6.9 mL/year (95% confidence interval: -10.2, -3.7) associated with high pesticide exposure.

Keywords: general population; longitudinal studies; lung; lung function decline; occupational exposure; pesticides; smoking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / physiopathology
  • Spirometry
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vital Capacity


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Pesticides