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Disinfectants and Sanitizers Linked to Thyroid Cancer


hand sanitizer

A study finds people in occupations that involve frequent use of disinfectants and sanitizers, such as workers in the healthcare field, are at a markedly higher risk of developing thyroid cancer. Exposure to the chemicals called biocides can double or triple the likelihood of the disease.

Biocides are commonly used in the medical and cleaning industries to kill viruses, bacteria and fungi. People with the most contact with the chemicals include psychiatric and home health aides; healthcare personnel who treat and diagnose patients; and building cleaning workers.

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Biocide Exposure Increases Risk 48 to 65 Percent

Research at Yale University compared data on 462 adults who had thyroid cancer with 498 adults of a similar age who didn’t have the disease. The information on the individuals included their vocations and job duties. Potential contact with biocides was calculated based on a state database of chemicals and pollutants associated with various occupations. Results of the analysis revealed women in jobs that involved biocide exposure had a 48-percent higher risk, while men in such jobs had a 65-percent higher risk.

In addition to biocides, contact with pesticides was examined. Vocations that involve the use of these chemicals include farmers, ranchers, postal workers, landscapers and lawn care workers. While research links agricultural chemicals to an array of adverse health effects, no connection was found with thyroid cancer.

What are the underlying mechanisms that tie biocides to thyroid cancer? They aren’t known, but the researchers speculated that the chemicals alter thyroid hormones. Studies indicate the wood preservative pentachlorophenol decreases thyroid hormone levels in rats, the authors noted. Research also shows triclosan, a common ingredient in cleaning products, reduces two thyroid hormones that play a role in growth and metabolism.

While the new study doesn’t prove causation and has limitations, it suggests the need for caution in exposure to biocides and pesticides. It should be emphasized that contact with the chemicals can come from both inhalation and application to the skin. Additional exposure may occur when laundering contaminated work clothes.

“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,” said lead study author Dr. Yawei Zhang.

The study was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Thyroid Cancer Overview

Thyroid cancer develops in the thyroid gland, which is located at the base of the neck below the Adam’s apple. Hormones produced by the gland regulate blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and weight. Symptoms of this malignancy include difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, swollen glands in the neck, a lump in the front of the neck and pain in the throat or neck. Many cases can be cured with treatment.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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