Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Nicole Deziel

Second Advisor

Nicola Hawley


Background: Growing evidence suggests that environmental chemicals, including certain pesticides and bisphenol A (BPA), may be linked to obesity because of their ability to disrupt metabolic functions. Methods: We conducted a community-based, cross-sectional survey of 319 non-pregnant mothers, ≥18 years old, with a child aged 2-<5 years in Samoa, a country with high obesity prevalence, understudied agricultural and residential pesticide use and BPA consumption from canned and packaged goods. We measured weight and height of the mother-child pair and interviewed mothers about their potential environmental exposures. Using multivariable logistic regression, we evaluated the association between pesticide and BPA exposure surrogates and weight status. Results: Among 319 mothers, 87.2% were overweight or obese (BMI≥26); among 314 children, 16.2% were overweight or obese (World Health Organization BMIz≥2). A total of 188 (59%) and 108 (34%) women reported home pest treatments with insecticides or herbicides, respectively. In adjusted analyses, we observed a borderline significant association (p=0.056) between herbicide use and higher maternal BMI; no associations were observed for other environmental exposures. Children who lived within 0-29 meters of a farm/plantation had lower odds of overweight/obesity. Conclusion: Our results suggest a possible link between herbicide use and higher maternal BMI as well as an association with proximity of home to a farm/plantation and lower BMI in children. Further research could incorporate biological or environmental sampling of pesticide and BPA exposure.


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