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Chemical disinfectants and sanitizers linked to thyroid cancer

I don't usually post anything about thyroid cancer - because I feel so ignorant. On this occasion, the prime article, and what is visible of the BMJ article, are a bit easier to understand.

Chemical disinfectants and sanitizers linked to thyroid cancer

(Reuters Health) - Workers exposed to chemicals like deodorizers, sanitizers, disinfectants and sterilizers on the job may be more likely than other people to develop thyroid cancer, a recent study suggests.

Occupational exposure to these chemicals, known as biocides, was associated with a 65 percent higher risk of thyroid cancer, the study found. For people whose jobs might have led to the most cumulative exposure to biocides over time, the odds of thyroid cancer was more than doubled.

The study also looked at pesticides, and didn’t find an increased risk of thyroid cancer linked to these agricultural chemicals.

“Limited studies have investigated occupational exposure to pesticides in relation to thyroid cancer and have reached inconsistent results,” said 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 said by email.

Scientists aren’t certain what causes thyroid cancer, though the odds of these malignancies are higher with certain genetic disorders and with exposure to high amounts of radiation, especially during childhood.

Women are much more likely to get thyroid tumors than men, and this type of cancer is more common in white people than in other racial or ethnic groups.

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.

Women with any occupational exposure to biocides were 48 percent more likely to develop thyroid cancer, while men had more than tripled odds, the study found.

Although the underlying mechanisms linking biocides to thyroid cancer are unclear, it’s possible that these chemicals alter thyroid hormones, researchers note. Triclosan, for example, a chemical widely used in cleaning products, has been shown to decrease levels of two thyroid hormones involved in growth and metabolism.

Another chemical, the wood preservative pentachlorophenol, has been show to lower thyroid hormone levels in rats, the authors also point out.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove biocides or pesticides directly cause thyroid cancer.

Other limitations include the five-year age bands researchers used to compare people with thyroid tumors to similar healthy individuals. It’s also possible the state data on occupational chemical exposure might not always reflect the level of exposure to certain biocides or pesticides by individual people in the study.

But the findings suggest it makes sense for people to be cautious about biocide and pesticide exposure, researchers conclude.

“People should take caution when they apply pesticides or other biocides in work place or at home by wearing protective clothes or mask and washing hands afterwards,” Zhang said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/2lmoJQV Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online February 15, 2017.


5 Replies

Crikey. That's really quite alarming... Enlightening. Thanks Helvella.


I would like to ban them. Had to flee to the door for air on Saturday when staff were excessively spraying tables in cafe, getting closer and closer ....

What's wrong with plain soap and water or even just water & followed by dry cloths? Don't they know that germs can't exist on clean, dry surfaces???


Can't help when much of our food is grown with chemicals

1 like

All anti-bacterial products are banned from my house. They are everywhere these days and many contain Triclosan. Look out for anti-bacterial claims in some washing up liquids, soap, cleaning products, laundry additives, handwashes, hand gels, wipes. I even found it in a treatment for a wooden worktop! The worst is I thought I was doing the right thing by spraying an anti-bacterial on our babies' changing mat and toys.

My parents had none of theses anti-bacterials...



Well Helvella, and all who replied thus far, especially Mary-intusussecption, you have all cheered me up this morning!

Diagnosed hypothyroidism 27yrs no problems managing, I suddenly became aware of an intense, itchy ankle. Repeated visits to GP and many hydrocortisone creams later (I kept getting burning rashes each one), I developed sciatica and MRI showed 3 prolapse discs.

Long story! Don't want bore you all suffice to say, I developed full body rash needed antibiotics. Chemical testing revealed significant allergies metal, cobalt, nickel. Diagnosed Discoid eczema, contact dermatitis, prescribed numerous lotions, potions, have to use daily. Dermatologist told me thyroid was too suppressed adding to skin problems. Took me 2 months get levothroxine reduced (GP holiday, other GP told me wait till she back! In know!), few months later, GP reduced levothroxine again. Referred me to rheumatologist, immediately diagnosed sjogrens syndrome, it had shown in blood test 10 yrs ago. I was never told.

During this period of ill health, I began reacting to various foods, itchy mouth, rashes stomach upsets, nausea vomiting, weakness, prescribed piriton. I was no longer using toiletries, perfumes, soap, certain washing powders, etc etc, because not only would my skin react but the smell would trigger a fight or flight response (Mary-s, thank you!! I have learned to leave environments that start me coughing, itching etc).

My GP referred me to an allergist 10 months ago. I waited patiently. During this time, I began to learn more about sjogrens. I got accepted on research programme and was guided to books and places of support. Despite coming off hydroxychloriquine, due to frequent infections/antibiotics, low white blood count and sodium levels, I began managing sjogrens and coming to terms with last 2 yrs ill health. (Health unlocked friends being great saviour and advisers).

I began to realise sjogrens symptoms (plus pharmacist telling me my body had been assaulted with the numerous prescription meds I reacted to for prolapse disc/sciatica pain), were perhaps the underlying cause of my reactions to certain smells and foods. Sjogrens symptoms include extremely dry nose, eyes and mouth. It makes sense to me that when a smell or offending food like chillies hits the nose, throat, eyes my body does not have the ability to protect itself as it once did.

Sorry, I am so trying keep this short reading!

So, my allergy appointment arrived after GP chased referral twice. I waited in stuffy environment, no windows nhs waiting area, for hour and half. My nose, throat eyes very dry despite 2 cups water. Entered consultants room. Overwhelming smell hit me. I sat where invited.

I was so keen to explain my theory and experience about sjogrens but I could not contain irritating cough. I kept apologising. Noticed the hand gel (being the smell in the room), was on the desk under my nose. I told allergist I will just move over there, the smell is affecting me. He moved the gel. But cough wouldn't ease. Normally, I would have left environment. I should have.

In a nutshell, allergist told me I do not have allergies the reaction to smell is psychological. Foolishly, despite coughing and total discomfort, rash appearing on my face, I tried to discuss sjogren theory. He slammed my theory saying no its psychological.

In response to the appointment, I found evidence that underpins the extent of lack of moisture in glands through sjogrens and how this affects patients airways. I also telephoned the sjogrens helpline and my response to products, smells and spicy or strong smelling foods was verified. (Sjogrens organisations, like patients, are disappointed that the condition is misunderstood. It is yet, another invisible illness).

I telephoned PALS (patient advocacy liaison service), at the hospital, explaining the situation. I requested a copy of letter sent to GP to include evidence of his diagnosis during consultation. He did not spend more than 2 minutes assessing information. his conclusion was based on what he perceived through observation.

Letter arrived on Saturday.

Diagnosis: Pyschological response to environmental stimuli

No evidence provided whatsoever.

Furthermore, he wrote, she may be suffering from Sjogrens. (I cannot wait to show this to rheumatologist. My question will be. Do I or do I not have sjogrens?).

As a retired nurse, as a patient, and as a human being, i want to say, shame on any, and every medic who is so arrogant that they believe their diagnosis (opinion?), is not to be questioned.

Doctors/consultants first duty of care is, and must be... to do no harm. I wonder how many patients (especially vulnerable patients), would be able to handle such insensitivity when attending medical appointments.

I KNOW that chemicals, additives and the like, are often a CAUSE of ill health. That is why nhs and most business have COSH policies! Health and safety and risk assessments are very important components of any business.

Thank you everyone here, for information, and mostly, for caring, sharing and advising.

It was not a short piece to read. Apologies for that.

And, many thanks for bringing such an important topic to the forum Hellvella.


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