Environmental exposure to perchlorate, nitrate, and thiocyanate in relation to obesity: A population-based study

Environ Int. 2019 Dec;133(Pt B):105191. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.105191. Epub 2019 Oct 19.


Background: Perchlorate, nitrate, and thiocyanate are well-known thyroid disrupters and may contribute to changes in body weight. However, the associations between environmental exposure to these chemicals and obesity-related outcomes remain unclear.

Objectives: We aim to examine the urinary levels of perchlorate, nitrate, and thiocyanate and their associations with obesity and abdominal obesity in the U.S.

Methods: Here, we investigated the data of 16,265 adults aged 20-85 years from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2001-2014. Urinary levels of perchlorate, nitrate, and thiocyanate were measured by ion chromatography combined with electrospray tandem mass spectrometry. Obesity and abdominal obesity were defined by the body mass index and waist circumference, respectively. Logistic regression models were used to estimate the associations.

Results: Overall, 5794 (35.6%) cases of obesity and 9090 cases (55.9%) of abdominal obesity were observed among the participants. In multivariable-adjusted logistic regression models, urinary nitrate was inversely associated with obesity (p = 0.0022 for trend), while urinary thiocyanate was positively related to obesity (p < 0.001 for trend). Compared with the lowest quartile, the odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) across increasing quartiles were 0.95 (95% CI, 0.83-1.08), 0.88 (0.75-1.03), and 0.74 (0.60-0.90) for urinary nitrate and 1.31 (1.16-1.48), 1.53 (1.36-1.73), and 1.73 (1.47-2.03) for urinary thiocyanate. Urinary perchlorate was not correlated with obesity. Similar associations were also found between exposure to these chemicals and abdominal obesity.

Conclusions: A higher exposure to urinary nitrate was associated with a lower risk of obesity, while a positive association was observed for urinary thiocyanate. These findings emphasize the need to longitudinally evaluate environmental exposure to perchlorate, nitrate, and thiocyanate with respect to their effect on obesity in humans.

Keywords: Abdominal obesity; National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; Nitrate; Obesity; Perchlorate; Thiocyanate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitrates / toxicity*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / chemically induced*
  • Perchlorates / toxicity*
  • Thiocyanates / toxicity*
  • Waist Circumference
  • Young Adult


  • Nitrates
  • Perchlorates
  • Thiocyanates
  • thiocyanate
  • perchlorate