According to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children exposed to indoor insecticides have a higher risk of developing childhood cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma. With pesticides being used inside homes, preventive measures should be considered to reduce children’s exposure to these deadly carcinogens.
In a recent meta-analysis consisting of 16 previous studies of children exposed to indoor and outdoor pesticides, researchers found that indoor insecticides were associated with a 47 percent increased risk for childhood leukemia. Indoor residential pesticides, including professional pest control services, indoor flea foggers, flea and tick pet collars, and various roach and ant sprays, were also associated with a 43 percent increased risk for childhood lymphomas.
Although outdoor pesticides used as weed killers were associated with a 26 percent increased risk for brain tumors, the association did not reach statistical significance.
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“The incidence of childhood leukemia and lymphoma has increased in recent years, and that prompted us to look at this issue,” said the senior author, Chensheng Lu, an associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “But the risks can be managed as long as parents think, before using pesticides, about better ways to make a house pest-proof or pest-free. That’s a far more important message.”
According to Dr. Lu, children can be exposed to indoor pesticides by breathing them in or accidentally eating them. Younger children often touch areas coated with chemical residue and place their fingers in their mouths later. The study found that children younger than 12 appeared to be the most vulnerable to insecticide exposure.
Although the authors call for further research, they also recommend that parents take preventative measures to keep their children away from indoor pesticides. Due to the close proximity, lack of adequate ventilation, and lingering chemical residue on various surfaces, children can easily come into contact with deadly carcinogens.
"Making your homes pest-proof or pest-free is the best way to prevent your children from developing childhood cancers," Dr. Lu told Medscape Medical News. "Also there are so many non-chemical treatments that can be used, such as using screen windows or fixing cracks and crevices to prevent insects from getting inside."
The American Academy of Pediatrics also found that pesticide exposure has been linked to headaches, nausea, skin irritation, and other symptoms. Last month, nine-year-old Peyton McCaughey suffered brain damage after his family was told it was safe to enter their home after termite fumigation. In March, a school administrator and his family were hospitalized and airlifted back to the U.S. after they began having seizures while on vacation. Investigators found that a banned pesticide had been used to fumigate a room at their luxury resort on the Caribbean island of St. John.