By Megan Boyle
Despite major improvements in treatment and survival, children’s cancer rates are rising in the United States, leaving parents and scientists alike searching for evidence of what’s behind the trend. A new report sheds light into one avoidable risk: household pesticides.
Children exposed to insecticides inside their homes have a 47 percent higher risk of developing certain cancers in childhood, according to the report by Alex Lu and his colleagues at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
The research team examined 16 high-quality studies of children’s risks and found that indoor exposure to insecticides was associated with higher rates of leukemia and lymphoma, the most common cancers diagnosed in children. Exposure to outdoor herbicides (weed killers), but not insecticides (bug killers), was associated with 26 percent higher childhood leukemia risk.
Due to the complexity of studying people in the real world, there aren’t any studies examining whether childhood exposures to pesticides increase the risk of developing cancer in adulthood. But childhood exposure could also be causing health issues that manifest later in life.
What can parents do to protect their children? Stop using pesticides on your lawn and garden. Indoors, use pesticides only as a last resort. Then follow these tips to keep your home pest-free.
Take preventive steps. You can make changes in your home to deter pests like roaches, ants, wasps and rodents from living there in the first place. Schools and daycares should do the same.
Reduce pest temptations. Pests are attracted to food and water. Store food securely in airtight bins, containers or the refrigerator. Don’t leave food or liquids out overnight and take out the trash regularly. Remember your pet’s food is just as tempting to a pest as your own.
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