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Impacts of thyroid disrupting pesticides in developing countries

Once considered rare in iodine-sufficient regions, thyroid disease is the second-most common endocrine disease after diabetes worldwide, and primarily affects women. Maternal thyroid hormone (TH) deficiency during pregnancy can have profound effects on the brain development of the unborn child.

Whilst nutritional deficiencies such as iodine, but also iron, or selenium play a role in the prevalence of low TH, over 100 authorised pesticides have been found to be able to induce such effects.

In Europe, where pesticide residues in food are tightly regulated and monitored, the levels of pesticides affecting the thyroid in the German diet, when considered together, cannot be considered safe. It follows that farmer communities in developing countries may also be affected, e.g. those working in orchards where such fungicidal products are widely and repeatedly used with little to no protection may face a double-whammy of nutritional deficiencies and overexposure to pesticidal products. To date, this issue has received little attention in developing nations.

This PhD project proposes to investigate the combined effects of mixtures of pesticides and nutritional deficiencies on farming communities from the Global South.

Funding is available covering (home) fees only for three years. Some additional funds are available for field and/or lab work.

Please contact olwenn.martin@brunel.ac.uk or sibylle.ermler@brunel.ac.uk for further information about applying and developing your research proposal.


The ideal candidates will have a background in relevant natural sciences such as medicine, epidemiology, biology or other environmental science and a keen interest in cross-disciplinary research.

How to apply

If you wish to apply, please e-mail the following to cbass-pgr-office@brunel.ac.uk by 30 April, 2022.

  • An up-to-date CV.
  • A single-page A4 single-spaced personal statement stating why you are a suitable candidate (i.e. outlining your qualifications and skills).
  • One example of your academic writing (e.g. an essay, a section from an undergraduate or a Masters dissertation).
  • A summary of your teaching experience or the teaching activities you feel you could support.
  • Names and contact details for two academic referees.
  • A copy of your highest degree certificate and transcript.
  • A copy of your English language qualification, where applicable.

Short-listed applicants will be required to attend an interview. Applicants chosen for interview will be instructed to submit a formal online application via Admissions.

For further information about how to apply, please contact the Postgraduate Research Student Office on cbass-pgr-office@brunel.ac.uk

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Sibylle Ermler - Sibylle Ermler is a Research Fellow in Human Toxicology in the Department of Life Sciences. She has expertise in the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and genotoxicants on human and environmental health. Her research interests are in male and female reproductive health, metabolic disorders, and the developmental origins of health and disease. Furthermore, she is an expert in mixture toxicology with an interest in the translation of (mixture-) toxicology into chemical risk assessment. Sibylle’s research has a focus on the development and application of novel in vitro approaches with the aim of creating human relevant models for human disease, and reducing the requirement for animal testing. Additional interdisciplinary research interests include the impact of climate change on food systems and on human development and health. University positions 2011-present: Research Fellow, Institute of Environment, Health and Societies, Brunel University 2007-2011: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Toxicology, School of Pharmacy, London