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Children's Exposure to Pesticide and Childhood Cancers

Although pesticides are necessary for the elimination of insects and other pests, the toxic chemicals used in agriculture and for public health can be harmful or even deadly in children. In the review article, “Residential Exposure to Pesticide During Childhood and Childhood Cancers: A Meta-Analysis,” in the October 2015 Pediatrics (published online Sept. 14), 16 studies were identified in a literature search to examine the possible association between residential pesticide exposures during childhood and childhood cancers. Exposure to residential indoor insecticides but not outdoor insecticides during childhood was significantly associated with an increased risk of childhood cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, but not childhood brain tumors. The greatest risk estimates were observed between childhood exposure to indoor insecticides and the risk of acute leukemia. The risk of childhood hematopoietic cancers increased with the frequency of use. Study authors did not find any significant childhood cancer risk with exposure to pesticides used in the outdoor environment, however, exposure to herbicides was associated with a slightly higher risk of childhood cancers in general. Study authors conclude that cancer risks are related to the type of pesticides used and the location of application during childhood. Parents, teachers and child care providers should be aware of these dangers and make every effort to limit children’s exposure to pesticides.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 64,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (

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