Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Original research
Allergic and non-allergic wheeze among farm women in the Agricultural Health Study (2005–2010)


Background Farms represent complex environments for respiratory exposures including hays, grains and pesticides. Little is known about the impact of these exposures on women’s respiratory health. We evaluated the association of farm exposures with allergic and non-allergic wheeze among women in the Agricultural Health Study, a study of farmers and their spouses based in Iowa and North Carolina.

Methods We used self-reported data (2005–2010) on current use (≤12 months) of 15 pesticides (selected based on frequency of use) and occupational farm activities from 20 164 women. We defined allergic wheeze as reporting wheeze and doctor-diagnosed hay fever (7%) and non-allergic wheeze as wheeze but not hay fever (8%) in the past 12 months. Using polytomous logistic regression, we evaluated associations of wheeze subtypes with pesticides and other farm exposures (eg, raising farm animals) using no wheeze/hay fever as the referent, adjusting for age, body mass index, state, current asthma, glyphosate use and smoking.

Results Current use of any pesticide, reported by 7% of women, was associated with both allergic (OR: 1.36, 95% CI: 1.10 to 1.67) and non-allergic (OR: 1.25, 95% CI: 1.04 to 1.51) wheeze. Four pesticides were associated with at least one wheeze subtype: glyphosate, with both wheeze subtypes; diazinon and fly spray with only allergic wheeze; carbaryl with only non-allergic wheeze. Working weekly with mouldy hay was associated with allergic (OR: 1.88, 95% CI: 1.26 to 2.80) and non-allergic wheeze (OR: 1.69, 95% CI: 1.18 to 2.42).

Conclusion Use of specific pesticides and certain farm activities may contribute to wheeze among farm women.

  • Allergy
  • Pesticides
  • Respiratory System

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Information on accessing data from the Agricultural Health Study is available at:

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.