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Open Access Research

Thyroid function in Danish greenhouse workers

Gunnar Toft1*, Allan Flyvbjerg2 and Jens Peter Bonde1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Occupational Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Norrebrogade 44, build 2C, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

2 The Medical Research Laboratories, Clinical Institute and Medical Department M (Diabetes and Endocrinology), Aarhus University Hospital, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

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Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 2006, 5:32  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-5-32

Published: 6 December 2006

Abstract

Background

From animal studies it is known that currently used pesticides can disturb thyroid function.

Methods

In the present study we investigated the thyroid function in 122 Danish greenhouse workers, to evaluate if greenhouse workers classified as highly exposed to pesticides experiences altered thyroid levels compared to greenhouse workers with lower exposure. Serum samples from the greenhouse workers were sampled both in the spring and the fall to evaluate if differences in pesticide use between seasons resulted in altered thyroid hormone levels.

Results

We found a moderate reduction of free thyroxine (FT4) (10–16%) among the persons working in greenhouses with a high spraying load both in samples collected in the spring and the fall, but none of the other measured thyroid hormones differed significantly between exposure groups in the cross-sectional comparisons. However, in longitudinal analysis of the individual thyroid hormone level between the spring and the fall, more pronounced differences where found with on average 32% higher thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level in the spring compared to the fall and at the same time a 5–9% lower total triiodthyroxin (TT3), free triiodthyroxine (FT3) and FT4. The difference between seasons was not consistently more pronounced in the group classified as high exposure compared to the low exposure groups.

Conclusion

The present study indicates that pesticide exposure among Danish greenhouse workers results in only minor disturbances of thyroid hormone levels.