A recent study suggests that household pesticides may play an important part in the childhood cancer “epidemic” worldwide.
The recent research found that indoor insecticides may boost the risk of childhood cancer including leukemia and lymphoma by a significant amount. Yet, researchers couldn’t find a similar link between outdoor pesticides and cancer risk in children.
Furthermore, the study, which was published September 14 in the medical journal Pediatrics, didn’t find an association between indoor pesticide use and childhood brain tumors.
Dr. Chensheng Lu, the lead author of the study and environmental exposure biology expert at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained that parents use indoor pesticides to eliminate household pests but most of them aren’t aware that the chemicals in the insecticides may harm their children, too.
Moreover, adults do not only use the toxic solutions to get rid of cockroaches, ants or mosquitoes. They also use them on pets to protect the animals from fleas thus increasing their children’s exposure to the harmful chemicals.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also found that household pesticides sicken thousands of children every year. Most of the poisoning cases occur when children touch the pesticides and put their hands in their mouths. Some of these cases can prove deadly.
In their research, Harvard scientists sifted through data from 16 studies that tried to find a link between household insecticides and childhood diseases. The strongest association the team was able to find was between the chemicals and risk of developing acute leukemia.
The study also revealed that the more often indoor pesticides were used, the higher the risk of children to develop an immune system-related disease was. These diseases included damage to blood-forming cells in the spinal tissue, scientists reported.
The team found that the way pesticides are applied play a more important role in cancer risk than the types of pesticide used.
“Broadcast application, can spraying, or fogger will lead to significant exposures to people who live in the household, schools, etc.,”
noted Dr. Lu.
As a background note, some pesticides including organophosphates were banned by health authorities in the U.S. because of the health risks they represent to small children.
Additionally, five years ago a federal report found that 28 of 40 insecticides used in schools to remove common pests were linked to a higher risk of cancer in children. Moreover, exposure to herbicides was tied to an even higher risk of cancer in very young students.
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