Environmental research

Combined effects of perchlorate, thiocyanate, and iodine on thyroid function in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-08.

PMID 23473920


Perchlorate, thiocyanate, and low iodine intake can all decrease iodide intake into the thyroid gland. This can reduce thyroid hormone production since iodide is a key component of thyroid hormone. Previous research has suggested that each of these factors alone may decrease thyroid hormone levels, but effect sizes are small. We hypothesized that people who have all three factors at the same time have substantially lower thyroid hormone levels than people who do not, and the effect of this combined exposure is substantially larger than the effects seen in analyses focused on only one factor at a time. Using data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, subjects were categorized into exposure groups based on their urinary perchlorate, iodine, and thiocyanate concentrations, and mean serum thyroxine concentrations were compared between groups. Subjects with high perchlorate (n=1939) had thyroxine concentrations that were 5.0% lower (mean difference=0.40 μg/dl, 95% confidence interval=0.14-0.65) than subjects with low perchlorate (n=2084). The individual effects of iodine and thiocyanate were even smaller. Subjects with high perchlorate, high thiocyanate, and low iodine combined (n=62) had thyroxine concentrations 12.9% lower (mean difference=1.07 μg/dl, 95% confidence interval=0.55-1.59) than subjects with low perchlorate, low thiocyanate, and adequate iodine (n=376). Potential confounders had little impact on results. Overall, these results suggest that concomitant exposure to perchlorate, thiocyanate, and low iodine markedly reduces thyroxine production. This highlights the potential importance of examining the combined effects of multiple agents when evaluating the toxicity of thyroid-disrupting agents.