Home Pesticide Exposure Tied to Child Cancer Risk

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There is an increasing concern about chronic low-level pesticide exposure during childhood and its influence on childhood cancers.

A number of studies have found an association between pesticides and certain childhood cancers.

Childhood exposure to indoor but not outdoor residential insecticides was associated with a significant increase in risk of childhood leukemia and childhood lymphomas. A significant increase in risk of leukemia was also associated with herbicide exposure. Also observed was a positive but not statistically significant association between childhood home pesticide or herbicide exposure and childhood brain tumors.

The analysis, of 16 studies done since the 1990s, found that children exposed to indoor insecticides had an elevated risk of developing the blood cancers. There was also a weaker link between exposure to weed killers and the risk of leukemia.

The findings, reported online Sept. 14 and in the October print issue of Pediatrics, do not prove that chemical pesticides directly contribute to the cancers. And if they do, researchers said, several questions remain.

It’s wise to limit babies’ and children’s exposure to chemical pesticides — especially the indoor insect killers that this study linked to leukemia and lymphoma.

Childhood cancer is, fortunately, rare: In the United States, just under 10,400 children younger than 15 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer this year, the American Cancer Society estimates.

Leukemia and lymphoma — two types of blood cancer — are among the most common childhood cancers.

We should always be cautious about exposing young children to any toxic chemicals.

Overall, children who’d been exposed to any indoor insecticides were 43 percent to 47 percent more likely to have leukemia or lymphoma, the findings showed.

Kids exposed to weed killers, meanwhile, had a 26 percent higher risk of leukemia, the investigators found.

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