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Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1307450

Pesticide Exposure and Depression among Male Private Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study

John D. Beard,1,2 David M. Umbach,3 Jane A. Hoppin,2 Marie Richards,4 Michael C.R. Alavanja,5 Aaron Blair,5 Dale P. Sandler,2 and Freya Kamel2
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1Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; 2Epidemiology Branch, and 3Biostatistics Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA; 4Westat, Inc., Durham, North Carolina, USA; 5Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, Maryland, USA
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Citation: Beard JD, Umbach DM, Hoppin JA, Richards M, Alavanja MC, Blair A, Sandler DP, Kamel F. Pesticide Exposure and Depression among Male Private Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study. Environ Health Perspect; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1307450.

Received: 31 July 2013
Accepted: 3 June 2014
Advance Publication: 6 June 2014

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Abstract

Background: Pesticide exposure may be positively associated with depression. Few previous studies considered the episodic nature of depression or examined individual pesticides.

Objective: We evaluated associations between pesticide exposure and depression among male private pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study.

Methods: We analyzed data for 10 pesticide classes and 50 specific pesticides used by 21,208 applicators enrolled in 1993-1997 who completed a follow-up telephone interview in 2005-2010. We divided applicators who reported a physician diagnosis of depression (n = 1,702; 8%) into those who reported a previous diagnosis of depression at enrollment but not follow-up (n = 474; 28%), at both enrollment and follow-up (n = 540; 32%), and at follow-up but not enrollment (n = 688; 40%) and used polytomous logistic regression to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals. We used inverse probability weighting to adjust for potential confounders and to account for the exclusion of 3,315 applicators with missing covariate data and 24,619 who did not complete the follow-up interview.

Results: After weighting for potential confounders, missing covariate data, and drop out, ever-use of two pesticide classes, fumigants and organochlorine insecticides, and seven individual pesticides—the fumigants aluminum phosphide and ethylene dibromide; the phenoxy herbicide (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxy)acetic acid (2,4,5-T); the organochlorine insecticide dieldrin; and the organophosphate insecticides diazinon, malathion, and parathion—were all positively associated with depression in each case group, with ORs between 1.1 and 1.9.

Conclusions: Our study supports a positive association between pesticide exposure and depression, including associations with several specific pesticides.


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