Insecticides leukaemia riskInsecticide 'double' leukaemia risk

17 January 2006

Regularly exposing children to household insecticides may double their risk of developing acute childhood leukaemia, a new French study suggests.

Leukaemia is a form of cancer caused by the uncontrolled growth of blood cells. Each year around 500 British children under the age of 15 will develop the disease.

The French research, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at 568 children, half of whom had been newly diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

Interviews with their mothers covered questions about the parents' employment history, insecticide use in their home and garden, and their use of insecticidal shampoos to kill head lice. Researchers found the risk of developing acute leukaemia was almost twice as likely in the children whose mothers had used insecticides in the home while pregnant and long after the birth.

Risk is 'more than double' the norm

The risk of developing childhood leukaemia associated with exposure to garden insecticides and fungicides as a child was more than double the norm. And for those who'd used insecticidal shampoos for head lice, the associated risk was almost double.

The authors say that no single agent can be blamed and a causal relation between insecticides and the development of acute childhood leukaemia 'remains questionable'.

They add: 'However, the consistency of our results and the results from previous studies suggests that it may be opportune to consider preventive action.'