Agricultural Crop Density Linked to Childhood Cancer in Midwest

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 16, 2015.  According to a new study, living in crop-dense regions is linked to increased leukemia and central nervous system cancers in children. Although there is a litany of scientific literature that highlights the link between pesticide exposure and childhood illness, this study is one of few that examines the relationship between residential exposures to agricultural pesticides via crop density and adverse health outcomes, and may serve as a basis for further investigation into childhood cancer rates in areas where agricultural pesticides are highly used.

pesticidesprayThe study, titled Agricultural crop density and the risk of childhood cancer in the Midwestern United States: an ecologic study, was published in the journal Environmental Health. Using crop density as a surrogate for residential exposure to agricultural pesticides, the study linked county-level agricultural census data and cancer incidence data for children between the ages 0 to 4 in six Midwestern states and found evidence of an association between childhood cancer incidence and the production of crops such as dry beans, oats, and sugar beets. Researchers found statistically significant exposure-response relationships for dry beans and total leukemias and acute lymphoid leukemias, oats and acute myeloid leukemias, and sugar beets and total leukemias. State-level analyses discovered additional positive associations for total leukemia and central nervous system (CNS) tumors. While researchers were not able to examine specific pesticides used in these regions, they cited atrazine, glyphosate, 2,4-D, and MCPA as some of the most highly-used chemicals during the study period.

The link between adverse health outcomes in children and pesticide exposure is well-documented. A recent Harvard study found that residential exposure to indoor insecticides in and around a child’s home is linked to increased risk of childhood leukemia and lymphoma. An investigation by Yale University researchers found that prenatal exposure to the widely used agricultural pesticide chlorpyrifos is linked to tremors in childhood. An article published in in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology found that parental exposure to environmental stressors, such as pesticides, before a child is conceived can alter the way genes are expressed in the mother and father, ultimately harming the child’s health when those genes are passed down to the next generation.

Beyond Pesticides advocates eating organic through its Eating with a Conscience website because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. To learn about the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page. For more information on pesticide exposures in homes, schools, workplaces and communities, see Beyond Pesticides’ Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: Environmental Health, www.beyondpesticides.org