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Original research
Occupational exposures to pesticides and other chemicals: a New Zealand motor neuron disease case–control study


Objectives To assess associations between occupational exposures to pesticides and other chemicals and motor neuron disease (MND).

Methods A population-based case–control study that included 319 MND cases (64% male/36% female) recruited through the New Zealand MND Association complemented with hospital discharge data, and 604 controls identified from the Electoral Roll. For each job held, a questionnaire collected information on 11 exposure categories (dust, fibres, tobacco smoke, fumes, gas, fumigants, oils/solvents, acids/alkalis, pesticides, other chemicals and animals/animal products). ORs were estimated using logistic regression adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activities, head/spine injury and other occupational exposures.

Results Two exposure categories were associated with increased MND risks: pesticides (OR 1.70, 95% CI 1.17 to 2.48) and fumigants (OR 3.98, 95% CI 1.81 to 8.76), with risks increasing with longer exposure duration (p<0.01). Associations were also observed for: methyl bromide (OR 5.28, 95% CI 1.63 to 17.15), organochlorine insecticides (OR 3.28, 95% CI 1.18 to 9.07), organophosphate insecticides (OR 3.11, 95% CI 1.40 to 6.94), pyrethroid insecticides (OR 6.38, 95% CI 1.13 to 35.96), inorganic (copper) fungicides (OR 4.66, 95% CI 1.53 to 14.19), petrol/diesel fuel (OR 2.24, 95% CI 1.27 to 3.93) and unspecified solvents (OR 1.91, 95% CI 1.22 to 2.99). In women, exposure to textile fibres (OR 2.49, 95% CI 1.13 to 5.50), disinfectants (OR 9.66, 95% CI 1.29 to 72.44) and cleaning products (OR 3.53, 95% CI 1.64 to 7.59) were also associated with MND; this was not observed in men (OR 0.80, 95% CI 0.44 to 1.48; OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.29 to 1.84; OR 0.57, 95% CI 0.21 to 1.56, respectively).

Conclusions This study adds to the evidence that pesticides, especially insecticides, fungicides, and fumigants, are risk factors for MND.

  • pesticides
  • epidemiology
  • chemical hazard release
  • risk assessment
  • environmental exposure

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplemental information.

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