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Childhood Leukemia & Lymphoma And Pesticide Exposure

by aseligmann — last modified Jul 23, 2010 12:00 AM

Two common childhood cancers have been linked to prenatal exposure to household pesticides according to a December 2007 study.

Two common childhood cancers have been linked to prenatal exposure to household pesticides according to a December 2007 study.

Using data from a large survey about childhood cancers, French scientists examined the relationship between parents' use of household pesticides and the occurrence of acute leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma in their child. They found that the use of any pesticide by the mother during pregnancy was associated with an increased likelihood of acute leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the child.

To focus on the effect of "in utero" pesticide exposure, researchers examined information about the mother's pesticide use during the pregnancy. They also looked at use of pesticides by the father during the combined period of the pregnancy and the child's early years. The pesticides were differentiated as: "weed killers" (herbicides); fungicides; or insecticides used in the home, on pets, or on garden crops.

Analysis by the type of pesticide used by mothers during pregnancy showed that acute leukemia was linked to use of home and pet insecticides, and to a lesser degree, herbicides. Using insecticides on garden crops was linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

In the initial analysis, the father's use of insecticides during the pregnancy and early years was associated with acute leukemia. However, when researchers looked at the combined effects of maternal and paternal use, the risk for acute leukemia appeared to be attributable to the mother's pesticide use. Paternal use of both insecticides and herbicides was linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but researchers were not able to draw conclusions about the overall strength of this effect.

Researchers also found that certain subtypes of leukemia and lymphoma were strongly associated with either maternal pesticides or paternal pesticide use.

The authors pointed out that other studies have also linked childhood leukemia and lymphoma to children's exposure to pesticides. Among theses studies, prenatal pesticide exposure appears to carry slightly more risk than childhood exposure. Given this information they concluded that perhaps pregnant women should not use pesticides.



Keep the Sprays Away? Home Pesticides Linked to Childhood Cancers.
Tina Ader. Environmental Health Perspectives 115(12):A594


Household exposure to pesticides and risk of childhood hematopoietic malignancies: The ESCALE study (SFCE).
Rudant, J. et al. 2007.
Environmental Health Perspectives 115(12):1787-1793