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Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2016 Aug;219(6):481-97. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2016.05.006. Epub 2016 May 20.

Exposure to non-persistent pesticides and thyroid function: A systematic review of epidemiological evidence.

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National School of Public Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Electronic address:
National School of Public Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Biomedical Research Centre Network for Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), Spain. Electronic address:


Numerous pesticides are recognized for their endocrine-disrupting properties. Non-persistent pesticides such as organophosphates, dithiocarbamates and pyrethroids may interfere with thyroid function as suggested by animal studies. However, the influence of chronic exposure to these compounds on thyroidal functions in humans remains to be determined. The present study aimed to review epidemiological evidence for an association between exposure to non-persistent pesticides and circulating levels of thyroid hormones (thyroxin [T4] and triiodothyronine [T3]) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). A systematic review was conducted using MEDLINE, SCOPUS and Virtual Health Library (BVS) databases. Articles were limited to original studies and reports published in English, Portuguese or Spanish. Nineteen epidemiological studies were identified, 17 of which were cross-sectional, 14 were of occupationally exposed workers and 11 used exposure biomarkers. Fungicides and organophosphates (OP) insecticides were the most studied pesticides. Although methodological heterogeneity between studies was noted, particularly regarding study design, exposure assessment, and control of confounding, most of them showed associations with changes in T3 and T4, and/or TSH levels, while results from a few of these are consistent with experimental data supporting the findings that non-persistent pesticide exposure exerts hypothyroid-like effects. However, reporting quality was moderate to poor in 50% of the studies, particularly regarding method of selection of participants and discussion of external validity. Overall, current knowledge regarding the impact of non-persistent pesticides on human thyroid function is still limited. Given the widespread use of pesticides, future research should assess effects of exposure to currently-used pesticides in cohort studies combining comprehensive questionnaire-based assessment and biomarkers. Investigators need to pay particular attention to exposure during critical windows of brain development and exposure in agricultural populations.


Epidemiological studies; Non-persistent pesticides; Systematic review; Thyroid disruption; Thyroid hormones

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