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Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Nov;124(11):1728-1734. Epub 2016 Jun 10.

Rheumatoid Arthritis in Agricultural Health Study Spouses: Associations with Pesticides and Other Farm Exposures.

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Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA.



Farming has been associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but the role of pesticides is not known.


We examined associations between RA and pesticides or other agricultural exposures among female spouses of licensed pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study.


Women were enrolled between 1993 and 1997 and followed through 2010. Cases (n = 275 total, 132 incident), confirmed by a physician or by self-reported use of disease modifying antirheumatic drugs, were compared with noncases (n = 24,018). Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated using logistic regression models adjusted for age, state, and smoking pack-years.


Overall, women with RA were somewhat more likely to have reported lifetime use of any specific pesticide versus no pesticides (OR = 1.4; 95% CI: 1.0, 1.6). Of the 15 pesticides examined, maneb/mancozeb (OR = 3.3; 95% CI: 1.5, 7.1) and glyphosate (OR = 1.4; 95% CI: 1.0, 2.1) were associated with incident RA compared with no pesticide use. An elevated, but non-statistically significant association with incident RA was seen for DDT (OR = 1.9; 95% CI: 0.97, 3.6). Incident RA was also associated with the application of chemical fertilizers (OR = 1.7; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.7) and cleaning with solvents (OR = 1.6; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.4), but inversely associated with lifetime livestock exposure as a child and adult (OR = 0.48; 95% CI: 0.24, 0.97) compared with no livestock exposure.


Our results suggest that specific agricultural pesticides, solvents, and chemical fertilizers may increase the risk of RA in women, while exposures involving animal contact may be protective. Citation: Parks CG, Hoppin JA, De Roos AJ, Costenbader KH, Alavanja MC, Sandler DP. 2016. Rheumatoid arthritis in Agricultural Health Study spouses: associations with pesticides and other farm exposures. Environ Health Perspect 124:1728-1734;

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