(NaturalNews) Children who live in homes where parents use pesticides are twice as likely to develop brain cancer, according to the results of a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The study evaluated more than 800 fathers and more than 500 mothers that live in residential areas in four Atlantic Coast states in order to better understand the science behind the cause of childhood brain cancers.
The parents' exposure to various pesticides at home and at the workplace was assessed through computer-assisted telephone interviews with the mothers. The researchers analyzed intensity and probability of exposure levels based on information on residential pesticide use and jobs held by the fathers during the 2 years before the child's birth.
"Parental exposures may act before the child's conception, during gestation, or after birth to increase the risk of cancer," wrote the study's authors. "Before conception, exposures may cause mutations or epigenetic alterations in gene expression... in the sperm or egg."
According to the researchers, previous studies have suggested association between childhood brain cancers and parental pesticide use. Those associative links are what motivated this more extensive study that involved participants in Florida, New Jersey, New York (excluding New York City) and Pennsylvania. New York City was excluded "because the unique characteristics of the city make tracing cases and identifying controls very difficult."
A significant risk of astrocytoma was associated with herbicide exposure from residential use. Astrocytomas are cancers of the brain that originate in star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes. Primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET) were not associated with any of the pesticide classes or exposure sources considered. Thus, the researchers conclude that the results of this study are consistent with previous studies associating parental pesticide exposures to childhood brain cancer.
Significantly, according to the study's report, the risk of childhood cancer was dramatically reduced for children of fathers who washed immediately after any pesticide exposure, or who wore protective clothing.
Data for the study were obtained from the mothers through the telephone interviews during a 13-month period between 2000 and 2001. These included details on lawn and garden care and specifics on job industries for the working parents in the household.
Potential effects from four ranges of pesticide were evaluated. These were insecticides, herbicides, agricultural fungicides, and nonagricultural fungicides. "Nonagricultural fungicides" refers to disinfectants, germicides, and similar chemicals used to control bacteria.
More than 1,200 jobs for fathers, and about 1,000 jobs for mothers were assessed for exposure probabilities and levels. Other factors that were considered included the mothers' education levels.
Parental exposure to pesticides at the workplace was significantly less common than for residential pesticide exposure.
According to the report, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified many pesticides as "probable or likely human carcinogens" while others are categorized as "suggestive or possible carcinogens."