Year of Publication



Public Health

Date Available


Degree Name

Dr. of Public Health (Dr.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Dr. Steven R. Browning

Committee Member

Dr. Wayne T. Sanderson

Committee Member

Dr. W. Jay Christian


Atrazine is one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States. Studies have shown that pesticides, in particular herbicides such as atrazine, may be associated with birth defects. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the association between potential environmental exposures to atrazine in water systems and prevalence rates of birth defects for the state of Kentucky. An ecological study using the Kentucky Birth Defects Registry Surveillance and the Kentucky Geological Survey databases from 2005 to 2014 was conducted. Poisson regression was used to estimate crude and adjusted rate ratios of the association between agricultural exposure metrics and birth defects. Overall, the results of this study support the majority of previous research reporting some or mixed association between atrazine and birth defects. Counties with high mean atrazine exposure had higher rates of all birth defects and genital birth defects than counties with low mean atrazine exposure. This study examining the association of atrazine and birth defects reported mostly statistically insignificant results. There was no evidence of increasing strength of association when the atrazine exposure was categorized into increasing exposure levels for mean concentration level, samples above the maximum containment level, and acres of corn planted. This research provides important information on how atrazine herbicide concentration in water systems affects birth defects prevalence. These results contribute to the existing literature and expand the understanding of endocrine disruptors 4 in agrichemical exposures and the role they have on birth defects. Based on the findings from this study, future, more in-depth studies can be designed to examine individual measures of risk and exposures for birth defects.