Iodine nutritional status and thyroid effects of exposure to ethylenebisdithiocarbamates

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Italy is still characterized by a mild iodine deficiency and is among the most intensive users of chemical products for agriculture in Europe. The aim of this study was i) to evaluate thyroid effects of exposure to mancozeb, a fungicide widely used in agriculture, in a sample of Italian grapevine workers, and ii) to verify whether the iodine intake may modulate the risk of thyroid disruption due to the mancozeb metabolite ethylenthiourea (ETU).


One hundred seventy-seven occupationally exposed male workers (29 from Chianti, a mild iodine deficient area, and 148 from Bolzano an iodine sufficient province) and 74 non-occupationally exposed male controls (34 from Chianti and 40 from Bolzano) were enrolled in the study. Serum biomarkers of thyroid function, as well as urinary iodine and ETU concentrations were assessed. Moreover all the recruited subjects underwent clinical examination and thyroid ultrasound.


Multivariate comparisons showed lower mean serum levels of FT4 in Chianti-workers as compared to Bolzano-workers. Moreover, an increased urinary iodine excretion (>250 μg/L) was more frequently found among more exposed workers (ETU>20 μg/L) than among less exposed ones and this effect was more pronounced in Chianti- than in Bolzano-workers. Chianti-workers also showed a significantly higher frequency of very low thyroid volume (≤6.0 ml) as compared to controls.


These findings showed a mild thyroid disrupting effect due to occupational exposure to mancozeb, more pronounced in workers residing in an area characterized by a mild to moderate iodine deficiency as compared to workers residing in an area covered by a long-lasting iodine prophylaxis program.

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