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article imageChildhood cancers linked to in-home pesticide use

By Karen Graham     Sep 14, 2015 in Health
A review of 16 studies done since 1990 suggests there is a link between in-home pesticide use and the incidence of some childhood cancers.
The analysis of the 16 studies showed that children exposed to pesticides inside the home have an increased risk of certain childhood blood cancers. Researchers also found a weaker link between weed killers and childhood leukemia.
The findings were reported on line on Sept. 14, and in the October print issue of Pediatrics. US News points out the researchers say the results of the review do not prove that pesticides directly cause cancers, but if they do, there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
The analysis did find that children exposed to indoor pesticides had a 47 percent higher risk of developing childhood leukemia that children not exposed to pesticide use in the home. These children were also 43 percent more likely to be diagnosed with childhood lymphoma.
Study author Chensheng Lu, of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts told Live Science, "Remember that pesticides are designed and manufactured to kill organisms." Lu urged parents to avoid using pesticides in the vicinity of children and particularly, in areas where they spend a lot of time.
"We don't know 'how much' exposure it takes, or if there's a critical window in development. Is the window during pregnancy? Or even before pregnancy?" Lu said. "That will take a much deeper investigation."
Fortunately, childhood cancers are rare in the United States, with under 10,000 children under the age of 15 being diagnosed every year, according to estimates by the American Cancer Society. Leukemia and lymphoma, two types of blood cancer, are among the most common types of childhood cancer.
Dr. Ziad Khatib, a pediatric oncologist at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, Florida, and not associated with the study, points out that most adult cancers arise after years of lifestyle choices and environmental exposure, but childhood cancers are different. Dr. Khatib adds, "We think most cancers in children are due to chance."
While the overall risks are low, the study suggests that parents need to pay attention to warnings on pesticide labels, and then make informed decisions on their use. Dr. Lu also points out that there are alternatives to getting rid of pests, like baits and traps.
In a broader sense, pesticide use in the U.S. has grown. Children and adults are exposed to pesticides every day, according to some studies, in parks, schools, businesses and other places. Dr. Lu says it makes sense to limit pesticide use in these places, too.
More about chilhood cancers, inhome pesticide use, analysis of studies, Leukemia, Lymphomas
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