OBJECTIVES--Although pesticides are regularly used in agriculture, relatively little is known about possible adverse health effects, especially reproductive effects, due to occupational exposure. This explorative study investigates the relation between exposure of the fruit grower to pesticides and fecundability (probability of pregnancy) in a population of fruit growers. METHODS--The analysis is based on self reported data and includes 91 pregnancies during 1978-1990 of 43 couples. Cox' proportional hazards model was used to analyse time to pregnancy after correction for gravidity and consultation with a physician for fertility problems. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS--Application of pesticides solely by the owner was associated with a long time to pregnancy, resulting in a fecundability ratio of 0.46 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.28-0.77). Similarly a low spraying velocity (< or = 1.5 hectares/h) resulted in a fecundability ratio of 0.47 (95% CI 0.29-0.76) and is associated with the use of older spraying techniques and tractors without a cabin. These factors were assumed to cause high exposure, which was confirmed by exposure measurements in the field. The effect of high exposure was mainly apparent if the couple had intended to become pregnant in the period from March-November (fecundability ratio 0.42, 95% CI 0.20-0.92). This is the period in which pesticides are applied. Out of the spraying season the effect of a high exposure was absent (fecundability ratio 0.82, 95% CI 0.33-2.02). In the high exposure group 28% of the pregnancies had been preceded by consulting a physician because of fertility problems, compared with 8% in the low exposure group. These findings indicate that an adverse effect of exposure to pesticides on fecundability is likely.
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