(NaturalNews) Using pesticides in the home may significantly increase women's risk of developing autoimmune disorders, according to a study conducted by researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Philadelphia.
Although the study was not set up to prove that insecticides directly caused the disorders, the researchers did control for all other known risk factors, and none appeared to play a role.
"It's hard to envision what other factors might explain this association," lead researcher Christine Parks said.
In autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, the body's own immune system attacks some other part of the body. Previous research has shown that women exposed to agricultural pesticide use are at a higher risk of developing both rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Women not living on farms, however, tend to be exposed to much lower doses of the chemicals, even if they use them in the home.
In the current study, researchers examined data on approximately 77,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79, sorting them by self-reported home pesticide exposure. They found that regardless of whether they had lived on a farm, women who were exposed to more insect-killing chemicals in the home were significantly more likely to develop either of the diseases. Women who had been exposed most frequently or for the longest period of time had twice the risk as women who had never been exposed.
Either mixing or applying insecticides counted as exposure for the purposes of the study. Insect repellent exposure was not included.
"I would recommend that people read the labels and take precautions to minimize their personal exposure," Parks said.
Although significant insecticide exposure can occur when people use pesticides, Parks noted that much exposure actually occurs inside the home itself -- from roach sprays, ant traps and other insect-killing poisons.