Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Jul;124(7):1093-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1408582. Epub 2015 Oct 27.

In Utero and Early-Life Exposure to Ambient Air Toxics and Childhood Brain Tumors: A Population-Based Case-Control Study in California, USA.

Author information

Department of Community Health Sciences, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA.



Little is known about the influence of environmental factors on the etiology of childhood brain tumors.


We examined risks for brain tumors in children after prenatal and infant exposure to monitored ambient air toxics.


We ascertained all cases of medulloblastoma, central nervous system primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET), and astrocytoma before 6 years of age diagnosed in 1990-2007 from the California Cancer Registry and selected controls randomly from birth rolls matched by birth year. Exposures to air toxics during pregnancy/infancy for 43 PNET, 34 medulloblastoma, and 106 astrocytoma cases and 30,569 controls living within 5 mi of a monitor were determined. With factor analysis we assessed the correlational structures of 26 probable carcinogenic toxics, and estimated odds ratios by brain tumor type in logistic regression models.


PNETs (≤ 38 cases) were positively associated with interquartile range (IQR) increases in prenatal exposure to acetaldehyde [odds ratio (OR) = 2.30; 95% CI: 1.44, 3.67], 1,3-butadiene (OR = 2.23; 95% CI: 1.28, 3.88), benzene, and toluene; and with IQR increases in exposure during the first year of life to ortho-dichlorobenzene (OR = 3.27; 95% CI: 1.17, 9.14), 1,3-butadiene (OR = 3.15; 95% CI: 1.57, 6.32), and benzene. All exposures except ortho-dichlorobenzene loaded on the same factor. Medulloblastoma (≤ 30 cases) was associated with prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs combined: OR = 1.44; 95% CI: 1.15, 1.80). Exposures to lead and some PAHs during the first year of life were positively associated with astrocytoma, but the confidence intervals included the null value (e.g., for lead, OR = 1.40; 95% CI: 0.97, 2.03).


Our data suggest that in utero and infancy exposures to air toxics generated by industrial and road traffic sources may increase the risk of PNET and medulloblastoma, with limited support for increased risks for astrocytoma in children up to age 6.


von Ehrenstein OS, Heck JE, Park AS, Cockburn M, Escobedo L, Ritz B. 2016. In Utero and early-life exposure to ambient air toxics and childhood brain tumors: a population-based case-control study in California, USA. Environ Health Perspect 124:1093-1099;

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center