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In home pesticide use could lower IQ, increase cancer risk

A recent study compiled data and found a link between indoor pesticide use and cancer rates among children. Interestingly, no link was found with outdoor use.

"Warning2Pesticides" by http://www.cgpgrey.com. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

A report has compiled data from previous studies and found that the use of pesticides in home can increase the risks of cancer among children, and potentially lower their IQ. Researchers found a substantial increase in cancer risks among children who had been exposed to insecticides indoors. Children were 47 percent more likely to suffer from leukemia and 43 percent more likely to suffer from lymphoma.

The researcher who led the study, Chensheng Lu, an associate professor at Harvard who specializes in environmental exposure biology, noted that cancer rates have been on the rise. Pesticides drew Dr. Lu’s attention, and the evidence he compiled suggests that pesticides could indeed be linked to increased cancer rates among children. The study will be published in October in Pediatrics journal.

Exposure to pesticides indoors is especially worrisome, which is why the study focused on such exposure. When chemicals are sprayed outdoors they are quickly diluted by winds and other factors. Indoors, however, the pesticides could potentially sit for long periods of time and people could be repeatedly exposed to them. Pesticides could also settle on surfaces and be absorbed through contact, such as a child putting something in his or her mouth.

Researchers also examined whether there was an association between the outdoor use of herbicides and pesticides and cancer rates, but did not find any evidence to link the two. This is likely owing to the factors above, namely that the chemicals are quickly diluted and people are able to breathe fresher air.

Researchers speculate that there could be linked between indoor pesticides and other types of cancer, such as prostate cancer, but have not been able to prove anything. Finding links between different factors and cancers is much easier than finding a causal relationship.