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Household Pesticides and
Risk of Pediatric Brain Tumor

by Nora Cody
Oakland, California

Nora CodyThis article is part of a series of commentaries by Nora Cody, First Do No Harm: A Consumer Health Advocate's Cautionary Tales, which examines issues in health and medical research, with a special focus on women's health topics.

The journal Environmental Health Perspectives, journal of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (a division of the National Institutes of Health) recently published an article linking the use of flea and tick bombs and sprays with a significant increase in pediatric brain tumors.

The article, entitled "Household Pesticides and Risk of Pediatric Brain Tumor," appeared in the November 1997 issue of the journal. Researchers found that "Risk (for pediatric brain tumors, in Los Angeles county) was significantly elevated for prenatal exposure to flea/tick pesticides . . . particularly among subjects less than five years old at diagnosis."

"A significant trend of increased risk with increased exposure was observed for number of pets treated. Multivariate analysis of types of flea/tick products indicated that sprays/foggers were the only products significantly related to risk. . . Elevated risks were not observed for termite or lice treatments, pesticides for nuisance pests, or yard and garden insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or snail killer."

The article goes on to note that further research is needed to pinpoint the chemicals involved in the increased risk. They also found that "risk appeared to be primarily confined to spray/foggers rather than shampoos/dips, powders/dusts, and collars." Note that they do not deem these products safe per se.

This alarming finding is consistent with a growing alarm among many people about the effect of pesticides, especially when considered as a cumulative risk, to human health. Research has found that young children and fetuses are at particularly high risk and can be affected in different ways and at lower exposure levels than adults.

Published in In Motion Magazine February 25, 1998.