Pesticide exposure and end-stage renal disease risk among wives of pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study

Environ Res. 2015 Nov;143(Pt A):198-210. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2015.10.002. Epub 2015 Oct 24.


Background: Pesticide exposure has been found to cause renal damage and dysfunction in experimental studies, but epidemiological research on the renal effects of chronic low-level pesticide exposure is limited. We investigated the relationships between end-stage renal disease (ESRD) among wives of licensed pesticide applicators (N=31,142) in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) and (1) personal pesticide use, (2) exposure to the husband's pesticide use, and (3) other pesticide-associated farming and household activities.

Methods: AHS participants reported pesticide exposure via self-administered questionnaires at enrollment (1993-1997). ESRD cases were identified via linkage to the United States Renal Data System. Associations between ESRD and pesticide exposures were estimated with Cox proportional hazard regression models controlling for age at enrollment. Models of associations with farming and household factors were additionally adjusted for personal use of pesticides.

Results: We identified 98 ESRD cases diagnosed between enrollment and 31 December 2011. Although women who ever applied pesticides (56% of cohort) were less likely than those who did not apply to develop ESRD (Hazard Ratio (HR): 0.42; 95% CI: 0.28, 0.64), among women who did apply pesticides, the rate of ESRD was significantly elevated among those who reported the highest (vs. lowest) cumulative general pesticide use (HR: 4.22; 95% CI: 1.26, 14.20). Among wives who never applied pesticides, ESRD was associated with husbands' ever use of paraquat (HR=1.99; 95% CI: 1.14, 3.47) and butylate (HR=1.71; 95% CI: 1.00, 2.95), with a positive exposure-response pattern for husband's cumulative use of these pesticides.

Conclusions: ESRD may be associated with direct and/or indirect exposure to pesticides among farm women. Future studies should evaluate indirect exposure risk among other rural populations.

Keywords: Agricultural exposures; End-stage renal disease; Farm women; Pesticide exposure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Farmers* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Iowa / epidemiology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / chemically induced
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Pesticides / analysis
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouses* / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Pesticides