French Study Shows Household Pesticides May Increase Leukemia
(Beyond Pesticides, January 24, 2006) Findings from a French study, conducted to investigate the relationship between childhood acute leukemia and household exposure to pesticides was recently reported in the Occupational and Environmental Magazine (OEM). Findings from the study,"Household Exposure to Pesticides and Risk of Childhood Acute Leukaemia," indicated that acute leukemia was observed to be significantly associated with maternal home pesticide use during pregnancy along with lawn chemical use and fungicide use during childhood. Research findings also show insecticidal shampoo treatment of pediculosis was also associated with childhood acute leukemia. The association of leukemia with insecticidal shampoo treatment of pediculosis,has never been investigated before the researchers believe it requires further study.
Research from the study focused on data collected from 568 children half of which had acute leukemia. The team from the Inserm medical research institute also found exposure to insecticidal shampoos doubled the risk of developing leukemia. However, United Kingdom cancer experts said the report did not prove there was a link. According to Ken Campbell, of Leukaemia Research Fund, “there are mixed reports and the problem is that the ones that make the link get the publicity.” Campbell continued saying, “There are two problems with this study, first, it is small and, second, it depends on parental recall, which is notoriously inaccurate.” According to Campbell the link between pesticide use and leukemia is “contentious.”
The study included face-to-face interviews with the mothers of 280 children that have acute leukemia and a group consisting of 288, matched for sex and age, but free of the disease. The interview consisted of questions regarding employment history of both parents, and the use of pesticides in the home and garden.
The findings show that the use of pesticides at home during pregnancy and childhood increased the risk of leukemia by nearly twice. Similar findings were also seen in those using insecticidal shampoos used to treat head lice. The use of lawn chemicals was linked to a 2.4-fold increase in risk and fungicide was linked to a 2.5 fold increase.
According to the report’s author, Dr. Florence Menegaux, it is still not possible to say for definite that the pesticide use caused the leukemia and it is also unclear what agent found in the chemical was potentially dangerous. She did say, “The findings of the study reinforce the hypothesis already suggested by the literature that household pesticide exposure may play a role in childhood acute leukemia.” Mengaux continued, "The consistency of our results and the results from previous studies suggests that it may be opportune to consider preventative action."