What Cancer Risk do Pesticides Pose to the General Population?

If you don’t work with dangerous pesticides in your daily life or spend an inordinate amount of time spraying your home garden, how much are you affected?

chemicals are found in the air we breathe, the water we use for drinking and bathing, in the food we eat, and in the health and home products we use.

Children appear to be in the greatest danger, and not so coincidentally, childhood cancers are on the rise. Studies have found that children from homes that have a higher use of pesticides (including insecticides and herbicides) have a higher rate of cancer − especially leukemia and lymphoma. These two cancers are rare, except in children repeatedly exposed to these chemicals at home.

The risks are not limited to leukemia and lymphoma, nor is the threat only to children. A 1990 case-control study examined brain cancer rates relative to pesticide use. The researchers found that those families using pesticides had significantly higher rates of developing cancer. Subsequent studies have found consistent results.

Some cancers take longer to develop, so studies must have a longer duration in order to produce accurate results. Ongoing research is working to identify if the development of different cancers later in life is due to childhood exposure to pesticides. Cancers being studied for this factor include prostate and bladder cancer.

Professor of pediatrics and the Director of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at the University of Washington, Dr. Catherine Karr, said, “We are starting to get to the place where there is enough science, it just starts to add up to say that we can’t really ignore anymore…the role of environmental factors like pesticides in health.”

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