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Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Jun;113(6):787-92.

Maternal exposure to occupational solvents and childhood leukemia.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Many organic solvents are considered probable carcinogens. We carried out a population-based case-control study including 790 incident cases of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia and as many healthy controls, matched on age and sex. Maternal occupational exposure to solvents before and during pregnancy was estimated using the expert method, which involves chemists coding each individual's job for specific contaminants. Home exposure to solvents was also evaluated. The frequency of exposure to specific agents or mixtures was generally low. Results were generally similar for the period ranging from 2 years before pregnancy up to birth and for the pregnancy period alone. For the former period, the odds ratio (OR), adjusted for maternal age and sex, for any exposure to all solvents together was 1.11 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.88-1.40]. Increased risks were observed for specific exposures, such as to 1,1,1-trichloroethane (OR = 7.55; 95% CI, 0.92-61.97), toluene (OR = 1.88; 95% CI, 1.01-3.47), and mineral spirits (OR = 1.82; 95% CI, 1.05-3.14). There were stronger indications of moderately increased risks associated with exposure to alkanes (C5-C17; OR = 1.78; 95% CI, 1.11-2.86) and mononuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (OR = 1.64; 95% CI, 1.12-2.41). Risk did not increase with increasing exposure, except for alkanes, where a significant trend (p = 0.04) was observed. Home exposure was not associated with increased risk. Using an elaborate exposure coding method, this study shows that maternal exposure to solvents in the workplace does not seem to play a major role in childhood leukemia.

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