In a case-control study, we investigated whether occupational and nonoccupational (hobbies) chemical exposures to women in the periconceptional period increased their risk for having neural tube defect-affected pregnancies. Women were asked about occupational tasks and hobbies performed during the 3 months before through 3 months after conception. Based on her reported occupational tasks and hobbies, an industrial hygienist assigned a priori defined exposure categories to each task and hobby. The exposure categories included 74 chemical groups, 9 "end-use" chemical groups, and organic solvents. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with mothers of 538 (88% of eligible) infants or fetuses with neural tube defect and mothers of 539 (88%) randomly selected, nonmalformed, live-born infants from a population-based 1989-1991 cohort of California births (N = 703,518). Our results suggested that maternal exposures in the periconceptional period to a variety of chemicals associated with occupational and nonoccupational activities did not contribute substantially to risk of neural tube defects in offspring. We observed no effect estimate greater than 2.0 for maternal exposures to the chemical agent groups studied. We did not observe substantially elevated risks associated with maternal exposures to any of the end-use chemical groups or to organic solvents. Considering occupational exposures only among women who worked did not substantially alter results. Adjustment for maternal vitamin use, race/ethnicity, or education level also did not substantially alter the observed associations.