Parental exposure to hydrocarbons at work has been suggested to increase the risk of childhood leukemia. Evidence, however, is not entirely consistent. Very few studies have evaluated the potential parental occupational hazards by exposure time windows. The Children's Cancer Group recently completed a large-scale case-control study involving 1842 acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) cases and 1986 matched controls. The study examined the association of self-reported occupational exposure to various hydrocarbons among parents with risk of childhood ALL by exposure time window, immunophenotype of ALL, and age at diagnosis. We found that maternal exposure to solvents [odds ratio (OR), 1.8; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.3-2.5] and paints or thinners (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.2-2.2) during the preconception period (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.3) and during pregnancy (OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.2-2.3) and to plastic materials during the postnatal period (OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.0-4.7) were related to an increased risk of childhood ALL. A positive association between ALL and paternal exposure to plastic materials during the preconception period was also found (OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.0-1.9). The ALL risk associated with parental exposures to hydrocarbons did not vary greatly with immunophenotype of ALL. These results suggest that the effect of parental occupational exposure to hydrocarbons on offspring may depend on the type of hydrocarbon and the timing of the exposure.