Passive exposure to agricultural pesticides and risk of childhood leukemia in an Italian community.
Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2016 Nov ;219(8):742-748. Epub 2016 Aug 21. PMID: 27693118
BACKGROUND: Exposure to pesticides has been suggested as a risk factor for childhood leukemia, but definitive evidence on this relation and the specific pesticides involved is still not clear.
OBJECTIVE: We carried out a population-based case-control study in a Northern Italy community to assess the possible relation between passive exposure to agricultural pesticides and risk of acute childhood leukemia.
METHODS: We assessed passive pesticide exposure of 111 childhood leukemia cases and 444 matched controls by determining density and type of agricultural land use within a 100-m radius buffer around children's homes. We focused on four common crop types, arable, orchard, vineyard and vegetable, characterized by the use of specific pesticides that are potentially involved in childhood induced leukemia. The use of these pesticides was validated within the present study. We computed the odds ratios (OR) of the disease and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) according to type and density of crops around the children's homes, also taking into account traffic pollution and high-voltage power line magnetic field exposure.
RESULTS: Childhood leukemia risk did not increase in relation with any of the crop types with the exception of arable crops, characterized by the use of 2.4-D, MCPA, glyphosate, dicamba, triazine and cypermethrin. The very few children (n=11) residing close to arable crops had an OR for childhood leukemia of 2.04 (95% CI 0.50-8.35), and such excess risk was further enhanced among children aged<5 years.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite the null association with most crop types and the statistical imprecision of the estimates, the increased leukemia risk among children residing close to arable crops indicates the need to further investigate the involvement in disease etiology of passive exposure to herbicides and pyrethroids, though such exposure is unlikely to play a role in the vast majority of cases.