Birth defects among offspring of Norwegian farmers, 1967-1991

Epidemiology. 1997 Sep;8(5):537-44. doi: 10.1097/00001648-199709000-00011.


We investigated birth defects (N = 4,565) reported to the Medical Birth Registry of Norway among 192,417 births between 1967 and 1991 to parents identified as farmers in five agricultural and horticultural censuses between 1969 and 1989. The prevalences at birth of all and specific birth defects deviated little from those among 61,351 births to non-farmers in agricultural municipalities. We classified exposure indicators on the basis of information provided at the agricultural censuses. The main hypotheses were that parental exposure to pesticides was associated with defects of the central nervous system, orofacial clefts, some male genital defects, and limb reduction defects. We found moderate increases in risk for spina bifida and hydrocephaly, the associations being strongest for exposure to pesticides in orchards or greenhouses [spina bifida: 5 exposed cases, odds ratio (OR) = 2.76, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.07-7.13; hydrocephaly: 5 exposed cases, OR = 3.49, 95% CI = 1.34-9.09]. Exposure to pesticides, in particular in grain farming, was also associated with limb reduction defects (OR = 2.50; 95% CI = 1.06-5.90). We also saw an association with pesticides for cryptorchism and hypospadias. We found less striking associations for other specific defects and pesticide indicators, animal farming, and fertilizer regimens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology
  • Agriculture*
  • Birth Certificates
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Paternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons


  • Pesticides