Pesticides in Water
Pesticides Raise Child Risk of Leukemia - Study
From: The Times (London, UK), Jan. 17, 2006
HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS COULD DOUBLE CHILD LEUKEMIA RISK
By Sam Lister
Children frequently exposed to household insecticides used on plants, lawns and in
head lice shampoos appear to run double the risk of developing childhood
leukemia, research suggests.
A study by French doctors, published today in the journal Occupational and
Environmental Medicine, supports concerns raised in recent years about the use of
toxic insecticides around the home and garden including plant sprays, medication
shampoos and mosquito repellents and a possible correlation with increased rates
of acute leukemia in children.
The latest study by Inserm, France's national institute for medical research, was
based on 280 children who had acute leukemia, newly diagnosed and 288 children
matched for sex and age but disease free.
Detailed interviews were carried out with each mother. These included questions
about the employment history of both parents, the use of insecticides in the home
and garden and the use of insecticidal shampoos against head lice.
It showed that the risk of developing acute leukemia was almost twice as likely in
children whose mothers said that they had used insecticides in the home while
pregnant and long after the birth.
Exposure to garden insecticides and fungicides as a child was associated with a
more than doubling of disease occurrence. The use of insecticidal shampoos for
head lice was associated with almost twice the risk.
Describing the links as "significant", the authors said that preventive action should
be considered to ensure that the health risks to children were as small as possible.
A group of pesticides known as carbamates, which are present in plant treatments,
lice shampoos and insect sprays, are most commonly linked to cases of leukemia.
There are three main carbamates used in the UK: carbaryl, carbofuran and
Head lice products containing carbaryl are now restricted to prescription after a
report by a government committee that gave warning of potential carcinogenic
Florence Menegaux, the lead researcher based at the Paris headquarters, and her
fellow authors said that no one agent could be singled out and a causal relation
between insecticides and the development of acute childhood leukemia "remains
questionable". But they said that the patterns revealed suggested that the results
should be acted on and "preventative action" considered.
Leukemia is the term used to describe a number of cancers of the blood cells. In
children about 85 per cent of these are acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and acute
myeloid leukemia accounts for most of the rest.
Leukemia makes up about a third of all cancers in children and currently kills more
than any other disease in the UK. Of the 500 children under the age of 15 who
have the disease diagnosed each year, about 100 die. Research has shown that
boys are 10 per cent more likely than girls to suffer the disease.
In the late 1960s, the mortality rate for leukemia among children was about 26
deaths per million of the population in England and Wales. This dropped to about
10 by the late 1990s. But the incidence rate increased from about 40 to 45 cases
per million over the same period.
The number of new cases being diagnosed has been rising for at least 40 years,
particularly in the under-5s.
Scientists believe that the cancer starts in the womb, with a second event
triggering the disease¹s development in childhood. Studies are continuing to
determine whether this trigger is genetic, environmental, dietary or related to other
The possible link to pesticides remains hotly debated, with many scientists
disputing the suggestion that it is a significant factor. Some have drawn attention
to a potential "cocktail effect", when apparently safe chemicals cause problems if
combined with others.
Although products sold for use in homes and gardens are tested, mixtures of
pesticides are not generally tested because of the number of permutations
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