Study: Occupational Exposure To Sanitizers, Disinfectants, Deodorizers, & Sterilizers Associated With 65% Higher Risk Of Thyroid Cancer

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Those who work with common chemical disinfectants, deodorizers, sanitizers, and sterilizers are roughly 65% more likely to develop thyroid cancer than people who don’t, according to new research from Yale University.

So, regular exposure to these common “biocides” hugely increases your chance of developing thyroid cancer. Presumably, there’s a good chance that other common thyroid problems are associated with lower levels of exposure.

The new research also looked at the correlation between thyroid cancer and pesticide exposure, but came to inconclusive results — in contrast to some earlier work.

“Limited studies have investigated occupational exposure to pesticides in relation to thyroid cancer and have reached inconsistent results,” commented lead study author Dr Yawei Zhang, an environmental health researcher at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

“Our study did not support an association between occupational exposure to pesticides and risk of thyroid cancer, but suggested that occupational exposure to other biocides might be associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer,” Zhang continued.

Reuters provides more:

For the current study, researchers compared data on 462 adults with thyroid cancer in 2010 and 2011 to 498 people who didn’t get these tumors but who were otherwise similar and around the same age.

Researchers asked study participants to report all jobs held for at least one year during their lifetimes and to provide detailed information on their job title, duties, company name, type of industry and dates of employment. Then, researchers calculated potential exposure to biocides and pesticides based on a state database of occupational contact with specific chemicals and pollutants.

Pesticides included primarily agricultural chemicals like insecticides, herbicides and rodenticides. The jobs most often linked to these chemicals were farmer, rancher and other agricultural managers; postal worker; and supervisor of landscaping, lawn services and grounds keeping workers.

Biocides in the study were typically used in medicine or cleaning. Jobs most often tied to these chemicals included healthcare providers involved in diagnosing or treating patients; psychiatric and home health aides; and building cleaning workers.

The findings of the study were that women with any occupational exposure at all to biocides were around 48% more likely to develop thyroid cancer; and that men with any occupational exposure were more than 3 times as likely to develop thyroid cancer as those who didn’t have occupational exposure.

While the exact mechanisms behind the association aren’t yet clear, it seems likely that the chemicals in question affect thyroid hormone production and/or function, according to the researchers.

Reuters notes: “Triclosan, for example, a chemical widely used in cleaning products, has been shown to decrease levels of 2 thyroid hormones involved in growth and metabolism. Another chemical, the wood preservative pentachlorophenol, has been shown to lower thyroid hormone levels in rats, the authors also point out.”

Yet another reason to skip the “anti-bacterial” soap, I guess.

The new research was published in the BMJ journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Image by Genuine500 (CC BY-SA 3.0 license)


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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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