Parental occupational exposure to combustion products, metals, silica and asbestos and risk of childhood leukaemia: Findings from the Childhood Cancer and Leukaemia International Consortium (CLIC)

Environ Int. 2022 Sep;167:107409. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2022.107409. Epub 2022 Jul 20.


Parental occupational exposures around conception (father) or during pregnancy (mother) have been hypothesized as potential predisposing factors for childhood leukaemia. We investigated parental exposure to several known occupational carcinogens and childhood leukaemia risk. We conducted a pooled analysis using case-control data from four European countries (3362 childhood leukemia cases and 6268 controls). Parental occupational exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), diesel engine exhaust (DEE), chromium, nickel, crystalline silica, and asbestos were assessed by a general population job-exposure matrix. We estimated odd ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using unconditional logistic regression models for all childhood leukaemia combined, by leukaemia type (ALL and AML) and by ALL subtype (B-lineage and T-lineage). We found an association between high paternal occupational exposure to crystalline silica and childhood ALL (OR 2.20, CI 1.60-3.01) with increasing trend from no exposure to high exposure (P = <0.001), and also for AML (OR 2.03, CI 1.04-3.97; P for trend = 0.008). ORs were similar for B- and T-lineage ALL. For ALL, ORs were also slightly elevated with wide confidence intervals for high paternal occupational exposure to chromium (OR 1.23, CI 0.77-1.96), and DEE (OR 1.21, CI 0.82-1.77). No associations were observed for paternal exposures to nickel, PAH and asbestos. For maternal occupational exposure we found several slightly elevated odds ratios but mostly with very wide confidence intervals due to low numbers of exposed mothers. This is a first study suggesting an association between fathers' occupational exposure to crystalline silica and an increased risk of childhood leukaemia in their offspring. As this association was driven by certain occupations (field crop farmers and miners) where other potentially relevant exposures like pesticides and radon may also occur, more research is needed to confirm our findings of an association with crystalline silica, and if so, mechanistic studies to understand the pathways.

Keywords: Childhood leukaemia; Crystalline silica; Job-exposure matrix; Parental occupational exposure; Pooled analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos* / adverse effects
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Chromium / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute*
  • Male
  • Metals
  • Nickel / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Silicon Dioxide / adverse effects


  • Metals
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Chromium
  • Asbestos
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Nickel