Morbidity in New Zealand pesticide producers exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)

Environ Int. 2018 Jan;110:22-31. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.09.018. Epub 2017 Oct 12.


Objectives: To conduct a cross-sectional morbidity survey among 245 former employees of a pesticide production plant exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) in New Zealand.

Methods: Demographic factors and health information were collected in face-to-face interviews. TCDD, lipids, thyroid hormones, glucose and immunoglobulin G (IgG) were determined in non-fasting blood. For 111 participants, a neurological examination was conducted. Associations between health outcomes and working in a TCDD exposed job (prevalence 49%) and serum TCDD concentration≥10pg/g lipid (18%) were assessed using logistic regression whilst controlling for age, gender, smoking, body mass index and ethnicity.

Results: Diabetes was more common in those who had worked in TCDD exposed jobs (OR 4.0, 95%CI 1.0-15.4) and in those with serum TCDD ≥10pg/g (OR 3.1, 95%CI 0.9-10.7). Non-fasting glucose levels >6.6mmol/l were more common in those with TCDD exposed jobs (OR 3.6, 95%CI 1.0-12.9), as were serum free thyroxine 4<12.8pmol/l (OR 4.5, 95%CI 1.4-14.4), triglycerides >1.7mmol/l (OR 2.5, 95%CI 1.1-5.7) and high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) <1mmol/l (OR 4.0, 95%CI 1.2-13.2). IgG was negatively associated with TCDD (linear regression p=0.05). The neurological examination revealed a higher frequency of abnormal reflexes in those with serum TCDD ≥10pg/g (OR 4.8, 95%CI 1.1-21.0).

Conclusions: In this occupationally exposed population, TCDD was associated with an increased risk of diabetes and a range of subclinical responses in multiple systems (peripheral nervous system, immune system, thyroid hormones and lipid metabolism), several decades after last exposure. These results need to be interpreted with caution due to the small study size and the cross-sectional nature of the study.

Keywords: Diabetes; Dioxin; Health; Occupation; TCDD.

MeSH terms

  • Chemical Industry
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / blood
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / blood
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity*


  • Pesticides
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins