Maternal pesticide exposure from multiple sources and selected congenital anomalies

Epidemiology. 1999 Jan;10(1):60-6.


We explored the relation between various potential sources of maternal periconceptional pregnancy exposures to pesticides and congenital anomalies in offspring. Data were derived from a case-control study of fetuses and liveborn infants with orofacial clefts, neural tube defects, conotruncal defects, or limb anomalies, among 1987-1989 California births and fetal deaths. We conducted telephone interviews with mothers of 662 (85% of eligible) orofacial cleft cases, 265 (84%) neural tube defect cases, 207 (87%) conotruncal defect cases, 165 (84%) limb cases, and 734 (78%) nonmalformed controls. The odds ratio (OR) estimates did not indicate increased risk for any of the studied anomaly groups among women whose self-reported occupational tasks were considered by an industrial hygienist likely to involve pesticide exposures. Paternal occupational exposure to pesticides, as reported by the mother, revealed elevated ORs for only two of the cleft phenotypes [OR = 1.7 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.9-3.4] for multiple cleft lip with/without cleft palate and OR = 1.6 [95% CI = 0.7-3.4] for multiple cleft palate]. Use of pesticide products for household gardening, by mothers or by professional applicators, was associated with ORs > or =1.5 for most of the studied anomalies. Use of pesticide products for the control of pests in or around homes was not associated with elevated risks for most of the studied anomalies, although women who reported that a professional applied pesticides to their homes had increased risks for neural tube defect-affected pregnancies [OR = 1.6 (95% CI = 1.1-2.5)] and limb anomalies [OR = 1.6 (95% CI = 1.0-2.7)]. Having a pet cat or dog and treating its fleas was not associated with increased anomaly risk. Women who reported living within 0.25 miles of an agricultural crop revealed increased risks for offspring with neural tube defects [OR = 1.5 (95%CI = 1.1-2.1)]. For many of the comparisons, data were sparse, resulting in imprecise effect estimation. Despite our investigating multiple sources of potential pesticide exposures, without more specific information on chemical and level of exposure, we could not adequately discriminate whether the observed effects are valid, whether biased exposure reporting contributed to the observed elevated risks, or whether nonspecific measurement of exposure was responsible for many of the observed estimated risks not being elevated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Paternal Exposure
  • Pesticides* / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Risk Assessment


  • Pesticides