Assessment of pesticide exposure in the agricultural population of Costa Rica

Ann Occup Hyg. 2005 Jul;49(5):375-84. doi: 10.1093/annhyg/meh102. Epub 2005 Jan 13.


We describe a model for the retrospective assessment of parental exposure to 26 pesticides, selected by toxicity-based prioritization, in a population-based case-control study of childhood leukaemia in Costa Rica (301 cases, 582 controls). The model was applied to a subset of 227 parents who had been employed or self-employed in agriculture or livestock breeding. It combines external data on pesticide use for 14 crops, 21 calendar years and 14 regions, and individual interview data on determinants (task and technology, personal protective equipment, field reentry, storing of pesticides, personal hygiene) of exposure. Recall was enhanced by use of checklists of pesticides in the interview. An external database provided information on the application rate (proxy for intensity of potential exposure) for each pesticide. The calendar time was individually converted to five time windows (year before conception, first, second and third trimester, and first year of the child). Time-windowed individual data on determinants of exposure and their expert-based general weights and their category-specific hazard values jointly provided an individual determinant score. This score was multiplied by the application rate to obtain an individual index of exposure intensity during application. Finally, average exposure intensity during entire time windows was estimated by incorporating in the model the individual time fraction of exposure during application. Estimates of exposure intensities were proxies assumed to be proportional to dermal exposure intensity, which represents the major pathway of occupational exposure to pesticides. A simulated sensitivity analysis resulted in a correlation coefficient of 0.91 between two sets of 10 000 values of individual exposure indices, based on two different but realistic sets expert-assigned weights. Lack of measurement data on concurrent exposures in comparable circumstances precluded direct validation of the model.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agriculture*
  • Child
  • Costa Rica
  • Developing Countries*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Paternal Exposure
  • Pesticides*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rural Population
  • Time Factors


  • Pesticides