Study Shows Brain Tumors in Children Caused by Parental Pesticide Exposure

Reader Contribution by Beyond Pesticides
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Reposted with permission by Beyond Pesticides

A study released this month on termite pesticide applications reveals that women exposed within a year of pregnancy are almost twice as likely to have a child that develops a brain tumor. Research was led by Professor Elizabeth Milne, PhD., head of the cancer epidemiology group at the Telethon Institute for Child Research.

Published in Cancer Causes and Control, the article, “Exposure to Pesticides and the Risk of Childhood Brain Tumors,” studies whether exposure to pesticides a year prior to conception, during pregnancy and exposure during childhood were likely to augment the risk of brain tumors. Instead of examining household applications by homeowners, the study examines the role of pesticides applied by professional pest control applicators particularly to eradicate termites, spiders, and insects.

“The findings confirm what has been found in previous studies but we have been able to go a little bit further,” Professor Milne said. Interestingly, “The increased risk associated with termite treatments may be as high as twofold, while the increased risk with other pesticides may be about 30 percent.”

The study accounted for 303 cases of those that were exposed to pesticides and 941 families that were not exposed. Data came from across Australia to account for various environmental risks and predispositions.

The results indicate that termites treatment by professional applicators pose a much greater risk than insecticide treatments, with a 50 percent greater risk if mothers and fathers are exposed either in the year before or during pregnancy. While researchers found little evidence that treatments after birth were linked to childhood brain tumors, the study did not account for long term risks of developing tumors past childhood.

The findings support previous studies that indicate maternal pesticide exposure may play a role in childhood leukemia. Prenatal pesticide exposure has been linked to leukemia in older children. Few of these studies have looked at infants and toddlers or considered household pesticide use during the prenatal period. Also, most of the studies focused on occupational exposures.

Another study released by researchers at UC Davis and UCLA on “Cancer and non-cancer health effects from food contaminant exposures for children and adults in California: a risk assessment,” which found that almost all children with a normal diet in the study exceed the cancer benchmarks for arsenic, dieldrin, DDE and dioxin. Moreover, children exceed the non-cancer and cancer benchmarks by a greater margin than adults for all compounds.

Given such compelling research on the risks associated with childhood exposure to pesticides, the prevalence and persistence of pesticides in our living environment, particularly in our homes, of concern. A 2009 study from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found the pesticide permethrin in 89 percent of the 500 homes randomly selected for sampling. Another study conducted by the School of Medicine at The University of Texas San Antonio earlier this year found at least five pesticides in the air of 60 percent of 29 homes occupied by pregnant Hispanic women. In 2008, researchers at Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) found PBO in 75 percent of homes occupied by pregnant women in inner-city New York.

To see more scientific research on the effects of pesticides on human health, including birth defects, see our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. For more information on what you can do, see our materials for new parents with tips on food choices and safer pest management, specifically designed for new moms and dads.

 Source: Cancer Causes & Control

Beyond Pesticides is a nonprofit advocacy organization that works with allies to protect public health and the environment, leading the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides. For the latest information on the hazards of pesticides and alternatives to their use, sign up for Beyond Pesticides’ action alerts or like them on facebook.