The Biomarkers of Exposure and Effect in Agriculture (BEEA) Study: Rationale, Design, Methods, and Participant Characteristics

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2015;78(21-22):1338-47. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2015.1091414. Epub 2015 Nov 9.


Agricultural exposures including pesticides, endotoxin, and allergens have been associated with risk of various cancers and other chronic diseases, although the biological mechanisms underlying these associations are generally unclear. To facilitate future molecular epidemiologic investigations, in 2010 the study of Biomarkers of Exposure and Effect in Agriculture (BEEA) was initiated within the Agricultural Health Study, a large prospective cohort in Iowa and North Carolina. Here the design and methodology of BEEA are described and preliminary frequencies for participant characteristics and current agricultural exposures are reported. At least 1,600 male farmers over 50 years of age will be enrolled in the BEEA study. During a home visit, participants are asked to complete a detailed interview about recent agricultural exposures and provide samples of blood, urine, and (since 2013) house dust. As of mid-September 2014, in total, 1,233 participants have enrolled. Most of these participants (83%) were still farming at the time of interview. Among those still farming, the most commonly reported crops were corn (81%) and soybeans (74%), and the most frequently noted animals were beef cattle (35%) and hogs (13%). There were 861 (70%) participants who reported occupational pesticide use in the 12 months prior to interview; among these participants, the most frequently noted herbicides were glyphosate (83%) and 2,4-D (72%), and most commonly reported insecticides were malathion (21%), cyfluthrin (13%), and permethrin (12%). Molecular epidemiologic investigations within BEEA have the potential to yield important new insights into the biological mechanisms through which these or other agricultural exposures influence disease risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Agrochemicals / toxicity*
  • Allergens / toxicity
  • Biomarkers* / blood
  • Biomarkers* / urine
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dust / analysis
  • Endotoxins / toxicity
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Iowa
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Pesticides / toxicity
  • Prospective Studies
  • Research Design


  • Agrochemicals
  • Allergens
  • Biomarkers
  • Dust
  • Endotoxins
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Pesticides