Pesticide exposure and childhood leukemia

Photo credit: Petr Dosek Photo credit: Petr Dosek

A new study published in the journal International Journal of Cancer has found that increased exposure to pesticides before conception, during pregnancy and after birth increases the risk of childhood leukemia. Childhood leukemia has been recognized as one of the most common childhood malignancies and typically occurs in children 5 years and younger. The study focused on two types of childhood leukemia: acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Scientists examined 12 case-control studies in the Childhood Leukemia International Consortium that took place in North America, Europe and Australia over a 30-year period. They found that that pesticide exposure prior to conception, during pregnancy and after birth were all associated with an increased risk of childhood ALL. Pesticide exposure prior to conception and during pregnancy contributed to higher risks of childhood AML. Children are more vulnerable to pesticide exposure than adults because they have higher respiratory and metabolic rates. While more research is needed to determine which stage of exposure contributes to the highest risk of developing childhood leukemia, the authors wrote, “It would appear prudent to recommend that parents and those contemplating pregnancy should limit pesticide exposure in the home during the year before birth and the child’s early years.”