P A N U P S
Pesticide Action Network
April 4, 1995
Home Pesticide Use and Childhood Cancer
A study recently published in the American Journal of Public
Health has found elevated rates of cancer in children exposed
to pesticides in their homes and yards. The study by
researchers in North Carolina examined the association
between childhood cancer and home pesticide use in a case-
control study of children under 15 years of age. The study
found a four-fold increase in the risk of soft-tissue sarcoma
in children whose yards were treated with pesticides, and a
link between use of pest strips containing dichlorvos and
incidence of childhood leukemia.
Researchers interviewed parents of 252 children diagnosed
with cancer between 1976 and 1983 in the Denver, Colorado,
area, as well as 222 control subjects, about their use of
home pest extermination, yard treatment and pest strips.
Respondents were asked details regarding extermination and
pesticide use for each residence in which they lived for six
months or more, beginning with the time of the mother's
pregnancy. Researchers point out, however, that a primary
weakness of this and other studies looking at home pesticide
use and childhood cancer is the inability to accurately
measure any exposures.
1. Analysis of data gathered from these interviews found
evidence of an association between home extermination and
lymphomas, but not other cancers. In cases examined for the
study, pesticides most likely used for home pest control were
chlordane, heptachlor, diazinon and chlorpyrifos (Dursban).
Chlordane and heptachlor are included on PAN International's
Dirty Dozen list of pesticides. In 1988, Velsicol Chemical
Co., the U.S. registrant, voluntarily cancelled products
containing these pesticides in the U.S. The only commercial
use of heptachlor products still permitted in the U.S. is for
fire ant control in underground power transformers; however,
both pesticides are still manufactured for export. Diazinon
use in the U.S. exceeds eight million pounds, with
approximately 75 million applications made to homes, yards
and gardens. Chlorpyrifos is the most widely used insecticide
in the U.S., both in crop production and in nonagricultural
applications. Over 200 million chlorpyrifos applications are
made annually in U.S. homes, lawns and gardens.
2. The study found relatively strong associations between use
of pest strips containing dichlorvos and leukemias.
Dichlorvos is a known carcinogen in animals, and previous
studies have linked the insecticide to leukemia in adult men.
Pest strips present an exceptional health risk because they
emit a continuous vapor of dichlorvos into the household air
that people breathe continuously.
The U.S. manufacturer of dichlorvos, Amvac Chemical
Corporation, has recently requested voluntary cancellation of
some indoor home uses; however, pest strips, total release
foggers and crack and crevice treatments would still be
allowed. Several outdoor uses of dichlorvos including food
and non-food greenhouses, food handling and processing
establishments, buses and airplanes, will also be voluntarily
cancelled by the manufacturer. According to an EPA official,
the voluntary cancellation request is not "risk related."
Sources: "Home Pesticide Use and Childhood Cancer: A Case-
Control Study," American Journal of Public Health, February,
1995; NCAMP Press Release March 2, 1995; Pesticide and Toxic
Chemical News, March 22, 1995; Journal of Pesticide Reform,
Fall 1992 and Winter 1994.
Contact: National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides,
701 E Street SE, Suite 200, Washington DC 20003-2841; (202)
543-5450; (202)543-4791; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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