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Welcome to PSR's Environmental Health Policy Institute, where we ask questions -- then we ask the experts to answer them. Join us as physicians, health professionals, and environmental health experts share their ideas, inspiration, and analysis about toxic chemicals and environmental health policy.


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Childhood Cancer and the Environment

Posted by on June 24, 2014

Is childhood leukemia another canary in the coal mine for environmental health threats and disease?

Between 1975 and 2011, the U.S. has seen a 55% increase in the number of children diagnosed annually with childhood leukemia. Ninety percent of these children will be cured. However the emotional and financial costs of this stark increase in cancer rates are significant and the threat of subsequent adult development of cancers is high.

Research has shown that environmental hazards play a role in the development of childhood leukemia, including ionizing radiation, solvents, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and tobacco smoke. For a variety of reasons children are more vulnerable to these toxics than are adults. Children have higher levels of skin and dietary exposure, higher body-surface-to-weight ratio, and higher food and water intake in proportion to body size. Pesticide exposure is high among farmworker children who can be exposed in utero, or through breast milk, from pesticide drift, by contact with family members’ contaminated work clothing, or via working in the field themselves. House dust is another significant route of toxic exposure: recent research has shown an increase in acute lymphoblastic leukemia among those children exposed to higher levels of PCBs in house dust.

Healthcare providers can play a critical role in reducing exposures to children and pregnant women through anticipatory, preventative guidance during the preconception, prenatal and postnatal periods.

Learn more about the ways children are exposed to harmful environmental chemicals which may cause cancer -- and the need to focus our policies, healthcare and research on prevention -- in the latest Environmental Health Policy Institute.


PCBs: Cancer Linkage Found Decades after a Ban
Anneclaire J. De Roos, MPH, PhD

Protecting Farmworker Children from Pesticide Exposure
Joan Flocks, JD, MA

Childhood Leukemia: An Ounce of Prevention
Mark Miller MD, MPH; Catherine Metayer, MD, PhD; and Gary Dahl, MD

Parental Pesticide Exposure Linked to Childhood Cancer
Jennifer Runkle, PhD, MSPH

The views expressed in these essays are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Physicians for Social Responsibility.


Natalie Cox said ..

One way to prevent cancer is to encourage everyone to check their electrical appliance cords for lead. Lead SURFACE tests are available and affordable at hardware stores. MOST homes, offices, and businesses have at least one lead cord, adapter or computer cable that fails a lead surface test. These lead cords are to be discontinued in use immediately. The manufactures are to replace it with lead safe cord, cable or adapter.

July 4, 2014
Cathy Caldie said ..

Our family feels the cleanliness of our air, water, and soil has made a difference on disease in America. Please do the right thing to make it better for all Americans.

July 3, 2014
Dorothy Reil said ..

I am also a victim of pesticides. I have anemia. I found out benzene is used in pesticides and it is highly carcinogenic and also eats up the red cells and destroys the red cell manufacturing in the bone marrow. So why do we keep being inundated with benzene in almost all the products we have flitting about today?

July 3, 2014
Laurel said ..

Dr. Elizabeth Hamilton was one of the first to write a book on this subject - almost 100 years ago!

July 2, 2014
Alita said ..

This is What corporations want to cover up !

July 2, 2014
Sheila Malone said ..

I am a retired Nurse having taking my training in the 1960's. I have watched the numbers of kids who get sick with cancer rise dramatically over the years. My best friend died of leukemia in about 1955 when it was so very rare and today kids cancer like all cancer is big business. I have watched the use of pesticides and the "round up ready" lawns, fruits, vegetables and other things take over a good part of the market. There is little doubt the correlation between the pesticides and Cancers of all kinds.

July 2, 2014
JD said ..

Laundry detergents, fabric softeners, fragrances and dryer strips are major offenders. They are loaded with volatile organic compounds and endocrine disruptors. They are not biodegradable and are major contributors to air and water pollution, climate change and all kinds of disease. Children are more vulnerable, and they are exposed 24/7. Hard to understand why there is no mention of this anywhere. We need more awareness.

July 2, 2014

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