Critical Windows of Exposure to Household Pesticides and Risk of Childhood Leukemia.

From: Robina Suwol
Date: 14 May 2004
Time: 08:05:19
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Critical Windows of Exposure to Household Pesticides and Risk of Childhood Leukemia 

Xiaomei Ma,1 Patricia A. Buffler,1 Robert B. Gunier,2 Gary Dahl,3 Martyn T. Smith,1 Kyndaron Reinier,1 and Peggy Reynolds21School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA; 2Environmental Health Investigations Branch, California Department of Health Services, Oakland, California, USA; 3Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA 


The potential etiologic role of household pesticide exposures was examined in the Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study. A total of 162 patients (0-14 years old) with newly diagnosed leukemia were rapidly ascertained during 1995-1999, and 162 matched control subjects were randomly selected from the birth registry. The use of professional pest control services at any time from 1 year before birth to 3 years after was associated with a significantly increased risk of childhood leukemia [odds ratio (OR) = 2.8; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.4-5.7], and the exposure during year 2 was associated with the highest risk (OR = 3.6; 95% CI, 1.6-8.3). The ORs for exposure to insecticides during the 3 months before pregnancy, pregnancy, and years 1, 2, and 3 were 1.8 (95% CI, 1.1-3.1), 2.1 (95% CI, 1.3-3.5), 1.7 (95% CI, 1.0-2.9), 1.6 (95% CI, 1.0-2.7), and 1.2 (95% CI, 0.7-2.1), respectively. Insecticide exposures early in life appear to be more significant than later exposures, and the highest risk was observed for exposure during pregnancy. Additionally, more frequent exposure to insecticides was associated with a higher risk. In contrast to insecticides, the association between herbicides and leukemia was weak and nonsignificant. Pesticides were also grouped based on where they were applied. Exposure to indoor pesticides was associated with an increased risk, whereas no significant association was observed for exposure to outdoor pesticides. The findings suggest that exposure to household pesticides is associated with an elevated risk of childhood leukemia and further indicate the importance of the timing and location of exposure. Key words: case-control studies, child, herbicides, insecticides, leukemia, pesticides. Environ Health Perspect 110:955-960 (2002). [Online 14 August 2002] abstract.html

Address correspondence to X. Ma, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 USA. Telephone: (510) 643-3958. Fax: (510) 643-1735. E-mail:
We thank J. Feusner, K. Matthay, S. Month, V. Crouse, K. Leung, and V. Kiley for assistance with recruiting patients and M. Does for supervising fieldwork.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (PS42 ES04705 and RO1 ES09137). X.M. was supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (T01/CCT917644-01).

Received 14 November 2001; accepted 12 March 2002.  

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