Monday, September 21, 2015

Indoor Use of Bug Sprays Linked to 'Significant Increase' In Most Common Childhood Cancers



It might be tempting when you are in the middle of mosquito season or when your house starts seeing an increase in ants visiting daily, to run to the store and buy an insecticide to spray around the house - an easy fix.

However, a new meta analysis out of Harvard University,  looked at over 16 studies from the past 20 years and found  that children exposed to indoor insecticides had an elevated risk of developing blood cancers- which include  leukemia and lymphoma.  How elevated a risk? They found children exposed to any indoor insecticides were 43 - 47 percent more likely to have leukemia or lymphoma.  Interestingly, outdoor insecticides were not linked to the cancers.

Considering leukemia and lymphoma are among the most common childhood cancers in the United States this newest publication really begs to be brought to the attention of parents everywhere. 

Non-Toxic Munchkin spoke to senior researcher Chensheng (Alex) Lu, an associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and lead author of the publication.

WHY ARE CHILDREN MORE AT RISK?
According to Dr Chensheng (Alex) Lu, "...a general rule of thumb is that children with younger ages are more susceptible to toxic chemicals than older children because of their developing of metabolism of those chemicals."

In fact, this is the case with all chemical exposures- not just insecticides.  Because children are smaller in size than adults, because they are still in development (especially young children and fetuses) and because children still cannot break down chemicals as efficiently as grownups, any chemical exposure will have a bigger impact on them than on any adult- the main reason it makes sense to limit all chemical exposure to young children and developing fetuses.


WHY DID INDOOR EXPOSURE RESULT IN A 45% INCREASE IN CANCER WHILE OUTDOOR USE DID NOT?

Simply put, children spend more time indoors.   If you use insecticides indoors, you can expose your children when they are playing, eating and sleeping.  Even if children are not playing on treated areas, these chemicals can migrate to the house dust, and be inhaled when breathing or touched by kids throughout the day.   Without the help of the elements (wind, rain etc) insecticides used indoors stick around for longer.   

Exposure can not only occur indoors at home, but most schools commonly use insecticides in and around the school buildings; a large source of frequent exposure to young children.  


ALTERNATIVES
Insecticides are meant to kill living beings (namely the insect you are trying to get rid of) - it makes sense that chronic use could affect children.  In fact, according to Beyond Pesticides,  16 out of the 30 most commonly used pesticides are already linked to cancer.  This Not for profit even has a database of published studies that link pesticides to numerous serious ailments, beyond cancer.  

Dr. Lu's recommendations for anyone considering using insecticides indoors?  " I would say not using pesticides in the environment where children spend a great deal of time playing, sleeping or studying is the best way". 

Luckily there are more natural alternatives you can try to minimize any bug problem you encounter at home

ANTS

  1. Remove sources of attraction. Keep your kitchen clean. Wash countertops, floors, and cabinets with equal parts vinegar and water.  Wash dishes after use and keep garbage cans closed tightly
  2. Use natural ant repellents. Figure out the entry point of the ants and spray white vinegar or pour a line of cream of tartar:  ants will  will not cross over these barriers. A cinnamon stick, coffee grinds, chili pepper, paprika, cloves, or dried peppermint leaves near the openings are also said to repel ants (I have not used these)
  3. Planting mint around the foundation of the house will also keep ants away (we have mint planted all over the front of our house!) 
  4. Use essential oils like peppermint oil or tea tree oils.  Simply wipe some essential oil on the trail or entry point.  Make sure you buy pure essential oils not synthetic variety
  5. For that extra 'oomph" you can make your own non-toxic ant repellent spray- so so easy!   Mix 50% water with 50% white vinegar and add 20-30 drops of peppermint or tea tree oil and spray!


COCKROACHES

  1. Remove sources of attraction. Keep your kitchen clean. Wash countertops, floors, and cabinets with equal parts vinegar and water.  Move stoves and refrigerators and scrub on , around and bellow them.  Wash dishes after use and keep garbage cans closed tightly.
  2. Avoid moisture hot spots  Look for leaky or sweating pipes that may be adding to the roach problem. Check the bathtub and/or shower and look for leaking ceramic tile or fiberglass panels that result in water seeping behind the wall. Check sink overflow cavities and drains; roaches will also live in these areas.
  3. If you have pets:  Store all food, including pet food, in tightly sealed, roach-proof containers. Don't leave bowls of pet food on the floor overnight.
  4. Seal small openings that are pathways into your home. Repair cracks and crevices in basement walls and floors, cover drains, seal wholes around plumbing.
  5. Extreme temperatures will kill cockroaches. You can kill roaches in small areas or appliances, furniture by letting them sit outside (below 20-degrees F) during extreme winter conditions for several days or by placing the item in the freezer compartment for several hours.
  6. Traps: sticky traps are a good start


Beyond Pesticides also has a great database that allows you to choose a pest and learn about the best management practices to avoid the use of toxic pesticides

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