Incident thyroid disease in female spouses of private pesticide applicators

Environ Int. 2018 Sep;118:282-292. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2018.05.041. Epub 2018 Jun 13.


Background: Little is known about modifiable risk factors for thyroid disease. Several pesticides have been implicated in thyroid disruption, but clinical implications are not clear.

Objective: We assessed associations between pesticide use and other farm exposures and incident hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism in female spouses of farmers in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS).

Methods: We used Cox proportional hazards models to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals for risk of thyroid disease in 24,092 spouses who completed at least one follow-up questionnaire.

Results: We identified 1627 hypothyroid and 531 hyperthyroid cases over 20 years of follow-up. The fungicides benomyl, maneb/mancozeb, and metalaxyl, the herbicide pendimethalin, and among those over 60 years of age the insecticides parathion and permethrin (applied to crops) were associated with elevated hypothyroidism risk, with HR ranging from 1.56-2.44. Conversely, the insecticide phorate, and the herbicides imazethapyr and metolachlor were associated with decreased risk (HR ranging 0.63-0.73), as were long-term farm residence and other farm-related activities (HR ranging 0.69-0.84). For hyperthyroidism, the insecticide diazinon, the fungicides maneb/mancozeb, and the herbicide metolachlor were associated with increased risk (HR ranging 1.35-2.01) and the herbicide trifluralin with decreased risk (HR: 0.57).

Conclusions: Several individual pesticides were associated with increased risk of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, although some pesticides were associated with decreased risk. Some of the findings, specifically associations with fungicides, are consistent with results from an earlier analysis of prevalent diseases in AHS spouses.

Keywords: Agricultural Health Study; Hyperthyroidism; Hypothyroidism; Pesticides.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Spouses / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thyroid Diseases / epidemiology*


  • Pesticides