(Beyond Pesticides, September 21, 2023) A literature review published in CiĂŞncia & SaĂşde ColetivaÂ finds environmental exposure to all classes of pesticides (fungicides, herbicides, insecticides) has an association with childhood astrocytoma (brain/central nervous system [CNS] tumor). CNS tumors represent half of all malignant neoplasms (tumors) in children. Although medical advancements in disease survival are progressing, childhood cancer remains theÂ leading cause of deathÂ from disease among children. Furthermore, childhood cancer survivors can suffer from chronic or long-term health complications that may be life-threatening. The etiology or cause of childhood cancer involves the interaction of multiple components that include environment, lifestyle and genetics. However, emerging evidence indicates that environmental contaminants like pesticides (e.g., occupational exposures, air pollution, pesticides, solvents, diet, etc.) affect disease etiology.
Pesticide contamination is widespread in all ecosystems, and chemical compounds can accumulate in human tissues, resulting in chronic health effects. Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of pesticide exposure, as their developing bodies cannot adequately combat exposure effects. Moreover, several studies demonstrate an association between environmental or occupational pesticide exposure and the risk of childhood cancer. Considering that maternal pesticide exposure can have aÂ stronger associationÂ with cancer among children than childhood exposure, and newborns can still encounter pesticides, it is essential to understand how pesticide accumulation and co-occurrence can increase the risk of latent diseases (e.g., cancers) among vulnerable populations, such as children/infants.
In this piece, Brazilian researchers systematically review the literature in the PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, Scopus, and CINAHL databases to investigate the association between pesticide exposure and CNS tumors in children aged 0 to 14. The literature review identifies 1,158 studies associated with CNS and pesticide exposure, with the paper focusing on 14 eligible studies. The results confirm evidence of CNS tumor development, specifically brain tumor development, among children exposed to all classes of pesticides. The most common exposure setting was in the home.
There is a significant scientific connection between pesticides and cancer, asÂ several studiesÂ link pesticide use and residues to various cancers. Both current and past-use pesticides and chemical contaminants play a role in similar disease outcomes as several chemicals have implications for specific cancer risks (e.g., Â breast cancer, non-Hodgkinâ€™s lymphoma, prostate cancer, etc.). Additionally, 66 percentÂ of all cancers have links to environmental factors, especially in occupations of high chemical use. In addition to theÂ robustÂ links between agricultural practices and pesticide-related illnesses, overÂ 65 percentÂ of commonly used lawn pesticides andÂ 70 percentÂ of commonly used school pesticides haveÂ linksÂ to cancer. Although general pesticide exposure can increase susceptibility to cancer, prenatal and early-life exposure to environmental toxicants can increase cancer risk. For decades, studies have demonstrated thatÂ childhoodÂ andÂ in-uteroÂ exposure to the U.S.-banned insecticide DDT increases the risk of developing breast cancer later in life. Moreover, aÂ 2021 studyÂ finds previous maternal exposure to the chemical compound during pregnancy increases the risk of breast cancer and cardiometabolic disorders (e.g., heart disease, obesity, diabetes) up to three successive generations.Â
This study highlights that any pesticide type can lead to CNS tumor development. Most notably, exposure to pesticides in the home represents the most typical type of exposure setting. This is concerning as most of oneâ€™s lifetime is spent in the home. This study is not the first to find a risk between childhood cancer development and household pesticide exposure. Pregnant mothersâ€™ exposure toÂ household cleaners, many of which are pesticides, can increaseÂ nephroblastomaÂ (kidney cancer) and brain tumor risk in children. Therefore, it is essential to understand how external stimuliâ€”like environmentally relevant pesticide exposureâ€”can drive cancer development to avoid exposure and lessen potential cancer risks. The study concludes, â€śThe investigation of factors related to the risks of using pesticides is vital to inform environmental policy and curb the indiscriminate use of these substances in agriculture. [â€¦] A package of measures are therefore required, including public policies, effective environmental protection, and educational initiatives in primary health care services. The latter should address the residential use of potentially harmful chemicals, encourage healthy eating based on the consumption of organic foods, promote the use of personal protective equipment by parents employed in agriculture, and provide guidance to avoid the use of pesticides in the home before and during pregnancy.â€ť
Globally,Â cancerÂ is one of the leading causes of death, with over eight million people succumbing to the disease every year. Notably,Â the International Agency for Cancer ResearchÂ (IARC) predicts a 67.4 percent rise in new cancer cases by 2030. Thus, it is critical that both government officials and the public understand the health implications of pesticide use and exposure on humans, especially when pesticides increase chronic disease risk. Beyond Pesticides tracks the most recent news and studies on pesticides through theÂ Daily News BlogÂ andÂ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). This database supports the need for strategic action to shift away from pesticide dependency. For more information on the adverse effects of pesticides on human health, see PIDD pages onÂ cancerÂ (lymphoma,Â multiple myeloma),Â birth/fetal defects, and other diseases. Additionally, since pesticides can have multi-generation impacts on our health, you can learn more about the hazards posed to childrenâ€™s health through Beyond Pesticideâ€™sÂ Pesticide and YouÂ Journal article, â€śChildren and Pesticides Donâ€™t Mix.â€ť
There is aÂ strong consensus among pediatriciansÂ that pregnant mothers and young children should avoid pesticide exposure during critical windows of development. However, the general population should follow this advice as the effects of pesticide exposure span every individual. Fortunately, theÂ wide availability of non-pesticidal alternative strategiesÂ allows families and agricultural industry workers to apply these methods to promote a safe and healthy environment, especially among chemically vulnerable individuals. For instance,Â buying,Â growing, andÂ supporting organicÂ land management can reduce human and environmental contamination from pesticides. Organic agriculture has manyÂ healthÂ andÂ environmentalÂ benefits, which curtail the need for chemical-intensive agricultural practices. Numerous studies find thatÂ pesticide metabolite levels in urine significantly decreaseÂ when switching to an all-organic diet. For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers that grow our food, see the Beyond Pesticides webpage onÂ Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source:Â CiĂŞncia & SaĂşde ColetivaÂ