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Monday 9th December 2019 | Auckland

Grace Chen

Grace Chen

Massey University

Epidemiology NZ

Grace Chen has worked at the Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University since 2013 when she finished her Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health with Distinction (Massey University).  Her research interests are mainly focused on the health effects of occupational and environmental exposures to hazardous agents.

She was part of the intervention study on wood dust by using Video Exposure Monitoring (VEM) method to measure the exposure assessment. She also worked as a tutor for World Bank Master of Public Health courses for Epidemiology Methods and International Occupational and Environmental Health.

Her current research portfolio is focused on occupational and environmental risk factors for Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in New Zealand.  The current PhD thesis will identify occupations, and specific occupational and environmental exposures, that are associated with increased risk of MND.

Self-reported occupational exposures and MND in New Zealand

We have reported previously the results on a New Zealand population based case-control study evaluating occupations as risk factors for MND. The aim of this study was to investigate the associations between 11 different occupational exposure groups and the risk of MND by using self-reported job-related exposures.

We recruited 321 cases through the New Zealand Motor Neurone Disease Association and hospital discharges records, and 605 population controls from the Electoral Roll between 2013 and 2016. A standardized questionnaire was used to obtain information on personal and demographic details, lifestyle factors and a full occupational history with detailed workplaces exposures. Unconditional logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals for MND. Analyses were adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education and smoking.

Significantly elevated risks for MND were observed for self- reported job related exposures to Fibres (OR= 1.39, 95%CI 1.00-1.93); Fumigants (OR= 2.44, 95%CI 1.35-4.23); Animal and Animal Products (OR= 1.41, 95%CI 1.03-1.92); Other Chemicals (OR= 1.53, 95%CI 1.14-2.05) and Fungicides/Insecticides/ Herbicides/Timber Preservatives (OR= 1.44, 95%CI 1.05-1.99)

Our study shows various occupational related exposures with increased odds of MND. While study results need to be interpreted cautiously given the lack of direct exposure measures, these results, in particular exposure to Fumigants, Fungicides/Insecticides/ Herbicides/ Timber Preservatives which were consistent with our previous results on agriculture occupations and MND risk. Future studies will have a particular focus on exposures specific for certain job tasks and dose-response relationships.

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