Epidemiological Studies

Arbuckle et al., 1999

Arbuckle TE, Savitz DA, Mery LS, Curtis KM, “Exposure to phenoxy herbicides and the risk of spontaneous abortion,” Epidemiology, 1999, 10:6.


The Ontario Farm Family Health Study was designed to assess retrospectively the potential adverse effects of exposure to pesticides on pregnancy. Information on the health and life style of approximately 2,000 farm couples, as well as a history of use of pesticides on the farm, was collected by questionnaire. This analysis focuses on pre- and postconception exposure to phenoxy herbicides and the risk of spontaneous abortion using the complete (to date) pregnancy history for each woman. Preconception exposure (from 3 months before conception to the month of conception) was weakly associated with the risk of spontaneous abortion at <20 weeks’ gestation [adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 1.1; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.6-1.9]. When the analyses were restricted to spontaneous abortions of <12 weeks, the risk was more than doubled (adjusted OR = 2.5; 95% CI = 1.0-6.4), but the results were sensitive to the cutpoint used. If the husband did not normally wear protective equipment during application, the crude OR for early spontaneous abortions was 5.0 (95% CI = 0.7-36.2). Exposure to phenoxy herbicides during the first trimester was generally not associated with increased risk of spontaneous abortion. The results suggest a possible role of preconception (possibly paternal) exposures to phenoxy herbicides in the risk of early spontaneous abortions.

Benbrook, 2016c

John Peterson Myers, Michael N. Antoniou, Bruce Blumberg, Lynn Carroll, Theo Colborn, Lorne G. Everett, Michael Hansen, Philip J. Landrigan, Bruce P. Lanphear, Robin Mesnage, Laura N. Vandenberg, Frederick S. vom Saal, Wade V. Welshons and Charles M. Benbrook. “Concerns over use of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposures: a consensus statement,” Environmental Health, 2016, 15:19, DOI: 10.1186/s12940-016-0117-0.


The broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate (common trade name “Roundup”) was first sold to farmers in 1974. Since the late 1970s, the volume of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) applied has increased approximately 100-fold. Further increases in the volume applied are likely due to more and higher rates of application in response to the widespread emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds and new, pre-harvest, dessicant use patterns. GBHs were developed to replace or reduce reliance on herbicides causing well-documented problems associated with drift and crop damage, slipping efficacy, and human health risks. Initial industry toxicity testing suggested that GBHs posed relatively low risks to non-target species, including mammals, leading regulatory authorities worldwide to set high acceptable exposure limits. To accommodate changes in GBH use patterns associated with genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant crops, regulators have dramatically increased tolerance levels in maize, oilseed (soybeans and canola), and alfalfa crops and related livestock feeds. Animal and epidemiology studies published in the last decade, however, point to the need for a fresh look at glyphosate toxicity. Furthermore, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In response to changing GBH use patterns and advances in scientific understanding of their potential hazards, we have produced a Statement of Concern drawing on emerging science relevant to the safety of GBHs. Our Statement of Concern considers current published literature describing GBH uses, mechanisms of action, toxicity in laboratory animals, and epidemiological studies. It also examines the derivation of current human safety standards. We conclude that: (1) GBHs are the most heavily applied herbicide in the world and usage continues to rise; (2) Worldwide, GBHs often contaminate drinking water sources, precipitation, and air, especially in agricultural regions; (3) The half-life of glyphosate in water and soil is longer than previously recognized; (4) Glyphosate and its metabolites are widely present in the global soybean supply; (5) Human exposures to GBHs are rising; (6) Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen; (7) Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science. We offer a series of recommendations related to the need for new investments in epidemiological studies, biomonitoring, and toxicology studies that draw on the principles of endocrinology to determine whether the effects of GBHs are due to endocrine disrupting activities. We suggest that common commercial formulations of GBHs should be prioritized for inclusion in government-led toxicology testing programs such as the U.S. National Toxicology Program, as well as for biomonitoring as conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  FULL TEXT

Harari et al., 2010

Harari, Raul, Julvez, Jordi, Murata, Katsuyuki, Barr, Dana, Bellinger, David C., Debes, Frodi, & Grandjean, Philippe, “Neurobehavioral deficits and increased blood pressure in school-age children prenatally exposed to pesticides,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 118, 890-896, 2010, doi:10.1289/ehp.0901582.


BACKGROUND: The long-term neurotoxicity risks caused by prenatal exposures to pesticides are unclear, but a previous pilot study of Ecuadorian school children suggested that blood pressure and visuospatial processing may be vulnerable.

OBJECTIVES: In northern Ecuador, where floriculture is intensive and relies on female employment, we carried out an intensive cross-sectional study to assess children’s neurobehavioral functions at 6-8 years of age.

METHODS: We examined all 87 children attending two grades in the local public school with an expanded battery of neurobehavioral tests. Information on pesticide exposure during the index pregnancy was obtained from maternal interview. The children’s current pesticide exposure was assessed from the urinary excretion of organophosphate metabolites and erythrocyte acetylcholine esterase activity.

RESULTS: Of 84 eligible participants, 35 were exposed to pesticides during pregnancy via maternal occupational exposure, and 23 had indirect exposure from paternal work. Twenty-two children had detectable current exposure irrespective of their prenatal exposure status. Only children with pre-natal exposure from maternal greenhouse work showed consistent deficits after covariate adjustment, which included stunting and socioeconomic variables. Exposure-related deficits were the strongest for motor speed (Finger Tapping Task), motor coordination (Santa Ana Form Board), visuospatial performance (Stanford-Binet Copying Test), and visual memory (Stanford-Binet Copying Recall Test). These associations corresponded to a developmental delay of 1.5-2 years. Prenatal pesticide exposure was also significantly associated with an average increase of 3.6 mmHg in systolic blood pressure and a slight decrease in body mass index of 1.1 kg/m2. Inclusion of the pilot data strengthened these results.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the notion that prenatal exposure to pesticides-at levels not producing adverse health outcomes in the mother-can cause lasting adverse effects on brain development in children. Pesticide exposure therefore may contribute to a “silent pandemic” of developmental neurotoxicity. FULL TEXT

Markel et al., 2014

Markel TA, Proctor C, Ying J, Winchester PD, “Environmental pesticides increase the risk of developing hypertrophic pyloric stenosis,” Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 2015, 50(8), DOI: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2014.12.009.


BACKGROUND: Hypertrophic pyloric stenosis (HPS) is a condition noted within the first several weeks of life that results in hypertrophy of the pyloric muscle between the stomach and duodenum. The etiology has not been elucidated but genetic and environmental influences are suspected. We hypothesized that agricultural pesticides would be associated with an increased incidence of pyloric stenosis.

STUDY DESIGN: Data from infants with HPS were obtained from the Indiana Birth Defects Registry (IBDR) for all counties in Indiana from 2005 to 2009. Data from all live births were obtained from the Indiana State Health Department (ISHD). Maternal demographics and clinical characteristics of infants were abstracted. The US Geological Survey (USGS) provided estimated use of agricultural pesticides (EPEST), and these values were correlated with HPS incidence. Univariate and multivariate logistical regression models were used to assess the association between HPS risk and pesticide use.

RESULTS: A total of 442,329 newborns were studied with 1313 HPS cases recorded. The incidence of HPS was 30/10,000 live births. HPS incidence was correlated with total county pesticide use, as well as subcategories of pesticides (fungicides, fumigants, insecticides, herbicides). Indiana counties were then divided into low, moderate and high pesticide use (mean±standard deviation: 127,722±73,374, 308,401±36,915, and 482,008±97,260pounds of pesticides). Incidence of HPS was 26, 29, and 36 cases per 10,000 in low, moderate and high pesticide-use counties respectively. Subset analysis showed that the positive association between HPS and county pesticide use was more likely for male infants from mothers who were white, aged 20-35 years, had education at high school or lower, and smoked (p<0.05).

CONCLUSION: Pesticide use correlated significantly with incidence of HPS. Positive correlations between HPS risk and pesticide use were found for most risk factors. Further studies will be needed to verify our findings and further delineate the nature of this correlation. FULL TEXT

McDuffie et al., 2001

Helen H. McDuffie, Punam Pahwa, John R. McLaughlin, John J. Spinelli, Shirley Fincham, James A. Dosman, Diane Robson, Leo F. Skinnider and Norman W. Choi, “Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Specific Pesticide Exposures in Men: Cross-Canada Study of Pesticides and Health,” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention, 2001, 10.


Our objective in the study was to investigate the putative associations of specific pesticides with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma [NHL; International Classification of Diseases, version 9 (ICD-9) 200, 202]. We conducted a Canadian multicenter population-based incident, case (n = 517)-control (n = 1506) study among men in a diversity of occupations using an initial postal questionnaire followed by a telephone interview for those reporting pesticide exposure of 10 h/year or more, and a 15% random sample of the remainder. Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) were computed using conditional logistic regression stratified by the matching variables of age and province of residence, and subsequently adjusted for statistically significant medical variables (history of measles, mumps, cancer, allergy desensitization treatment, and a positive history of cancer in first-degree relatives). We found that among major chemical classes of herbicides, the risk of NHL was statistically significantly increased by exposure to phenoxyherbicides [OR, 1.38; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.06–1.81] and to dicamba (OR, 1.88; 95% CI, 1.32–2.68). Exposure to carbamate (OR, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.22–3.04) and to organophosphorus insecticides (OR, 1.73; 95% CI, 1.27–2.36), amide fungicides, and the fumigant carbon tetrachloride (OR, 2.42; 95% CI, 1.19–5.14) statistically significantly increased risk. Among individual compounds, in multivariate analyses, the risk of NHL was statistically significantly increased by exposure to the herbicides 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D; OR, 1.32; 95% CI, 1.01–1.73), mecoprop (OR, 2.33; 95% CI, 1.58–3.44), and dicamba (OR, 1.68; 95% CI, 1.00–2.81); to the insecticides malathion (OR, 1.83; 95% CI, 1.31–2.55), 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis (4-chlorophenyl) ethane (DDT), carbaryl (OR, 2.11; 95% CI, 1.21–3.69), aldrin, and lindane; and to the fungicides captan and sulfur compounds. In additional multivariate models, which included exposure to other major chemical classes or individual pesticides, personal antecedent cancer, a history of cancer among first-degree relatives, and exposure to mixtures containing dicamba (OR, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.40–2.75) or to mecoprop (OR, 2.22; 95% CI, 1.49–3.29) and to aldrin (OR, 3.42; 95% CI, 1.18–9.95) were significant independent predictors of an increased risk for NHL, whereas a personal history of measles and of allergy desensitization treatments lowered the risk. We concluded that NHL was associated with specific pesticides after adjustment for other independent predictors. FULL TEXT

Perry et al., 2006

Melissa J. Perry, Anne Marbella, Peter M. Layde, “Nonpersistent Pesticide Exposure Self-report versus Biomonitoring in Farm Pesticide Applicators,” Annals of Epidemiology, 2006, 16:9, DOI: 10.1016/J.ANNEPIDEM.2005.12.004.


PURPOSE: Few studies using biologic markers to examine nonpersistent pesticide exposure among pesticide applicators were conducted in field settings. This study compares self-reported dermal, inhalation, and ingestion exposures with urinalysis results after one-time application of the commonly used herbicide atrazine to field crops. It was hypothesized that: i) applicator reports of exposure would be associated positively with detection of urinary atrazine metabolites, and ii) applicator reports of personal-protective-equipment (PPE) use would be associated negatively with detection of urinary atrazine metabolites.

METHODS: Wisconsin dairy farmers were randomly selected to participate in 1997 to 1998 and were instructed to collect a urine sample 8 hours after the first pesticide application of the season. Farmers then were interviewed within 1 week of their first application to report on application practices. Eighty-six urine samples were analyzed for deethylatrazine, a major atrazine metabolite.

RESULTS: Comparing urinalysis results with self-reported dermal, inhalation, and ingestion exposure showed poor agreement between self-reported exposure and urinary deethylatrazine detections (all κ < 0.40). Multivariate linear regression modeling with deethylatrazine level as the outcome showed that self-reported practices did not significantly predict atrazine metabolite levels.

CONCLUSIONS: Possible explanations for the discrepancies between urinalysis results and self-reported data include: i) inaccuracies in self-reported data and ii) substantial interpersonal variation in atrazine metabolism, resulting in major differences in body burden for similar exposures. Either explanation poses challenges for epidemiologic studies of the health effects of pesticides, which rely solely on self-reported measures of exposure. Additional evaluation of determinants of accuracy in self-assessed occupational and environmental exposures is needed.

Rull et al., 2006

Rudolph P. Rull Beate Ritz Gary M. Shaw, “Neural Tube Defects and Maternal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticide Applications,” American Journal of Epidemiology, 163:8, 15 April 2006, DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwj101


Residential proximity to applications of agricultural pesticides may be an important source of exposure to agents that have been classified as developmental toxins. Data on two case-control study populations of infants with neural tube defects (NTDs) and nonmalformed controls delivered in California between 1987 and 1991 were pooled to investigate whether maternal residential proximity to applications of specific pesticides or physicochemical groups of pesticides during early gestation increases the risk of these malformations. Maternal residential proximity within 1,000 m of pesticide applications was ascertained by linking mothers’ addresses with agricultural pesticide use reports and crop maps. Odds ratios were computed by using conventional single- and multiplepesticide and hierarchical multiple-pesticide logistic regression. In single-pesticide models, several pesticides were associated with NTDs after adjustment for study population, maternal ethnicity, educational level, cigarette smoking, and vitamin use. In a hierarchical multiple-pesticide model, effect estimates for only benomyl and methomyl suggested a possible association. Elevated risks of NTDs and anencephaly or spina bifida subtypes were also  associated with exposures to chemicals classified as amide, benzimidazole, methyl carbamate, or organophosphorus pesticides and with increasing numbers of pesticides. These results suggest that ambient exposure to certain categories of agricultural pesticides may increase the risk of NTDs.  FULL TEXT