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Scand J Work Environ Health. 2007 Aug;33(4):293-303.

Parental occupational exposure to pesticides and the risk of childhood leukemia in Costa Rica.

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  • 1Central American Institute for Studies on Toxic Substances (IRET), Universidad Nacional, PO Box 86-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica.



Parental exposure to pesticides and the risk of leukemia in offspring were examined in a population-based case-control study in Costa Rica.


All cases of childhood leukemia (N=334), in 1995-2000, were identified at the Cancer Registry and the Children's Hospital. Population controls (N=579) were drawn from the National Birth Registry. Interviews of parents were conducted using conventional and icon-based calendar forms. An exposure model was constructed for 25 pesticides in five time periods.


Mothers' exposures to any pesticides during the year before conception and during the first and second trimesters were associated with the risk [odds ratio (OR) 2.4, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.0-5.9; OR 22, 95% CI 2.8-171.5; OR 4.5, 95% CI 1.4-14.7, respectively] and during anytime (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.0-4.8). An association was found for fathers' exposures to any pesticides during the second trimester (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.0-2.3). An increased risk with respect to organophosphates was found for mothers during the first trimester (OR 3.5, 95% CI 1.0-12.2) and for fathers during the year before conception and the first trimester (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.0-2.2 and OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.0-2.6, respectively), and benzimidazoles during the first, second, and third trimesters of pregnancy (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.0-4.4; OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.0-5.0; OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.0-5.2, respectively). There was a suggestion of an exposure-response gradient for fathers as regards picloram, benomyl, and paraquat. Age at diagnosis was positively associated with fathers' exposures and inversely associated with mothers' exposures.


The results suggest that parental exposure to certain pesticides may increase the risk of leukemia in offspring.

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