Study Links Pesticide Exposures to Cancer

Before you grab that bug killing spray to tackle indoor pests, you’ll want to keep reading. Research shows that children exposed to indoor pesticides have a whopping 47 percent higher risk of developing certain cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, according to research by Alex Lu and his colleagues at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

Leukemia and lymphoma are the two most commonly diagnosed cancers in children. Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells and is often referred to as blood cancer. Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, which is a complex network of fluid-filled nodes, glands and tubes that bathe our cells and carry the body’s “sewage” away from the tissues and then neutralize it.

In addition to skipping the indoor pesticides, you’ll also want to skip spraying your lawn, garden or patio with weed killing chemicals since the same study found that these exposures also increased a child’s risk of leukemia by 26 percent.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), 15,780 children up to and including the age of 19 were diagnosed with cancer in 2014 alone, with the incidence of childhood cancers rising.

These are shockingly high percentages linked with individual cancer risk factors. And, considering how completely preventable these two risk factors are (simply stop using indoor pesticides or outdoor weed killers), there really are no excuses for subjecting children to these toxic chemicals and increasing their risk of cancer.

The study focused on these two risk factors on children alone and specifically on the risk for two cancers. It is likely that pesticides and herbicide exposures affect children in other ways, including: other forms of cancer and/or other illnesses like hormonally-linked diseases. Additionally, it is likely that these chemicals affect adults as well, but these issues were outside the scope of this study. And, childhood exposures may also result in the development of health issues later in life, but an excessive number of factors make this difficult to study.

Regardless, it is important to reduce the exposure of children and adults to both pesticides and herbicides.

Here are some ways to reduce exposures:

  • Keep food and water in your refrigerator as much as possible since many pests are attracted to these items.
  • Vacuum regularly to minimize food crumbs that may attract pests.
  • Regularly clean counter tops, stove tops, table tops and other surfaces to reduce the food scraps that attract pests.
  • Identify small holes or cracks in windows, walls or floors and fill them with appropriate materials to minimize access points into your home.
  • Many pests like piles of clutter so do your best to minimize clutter.
  • Use natural options like rosemary, peppermint, cinnamon or tea tree essential oils instead of chemical options. Many pests find these smells offensive. Obviously, keep them away from children as well.
  • Avoid using pet treatments for fleas or ticks indoors.
  • Learn to live with weeds outdoors or manually remove them or simply mow them with a mower or weed whacker.
  • Don’t let children play in recently-sprayed playgrounds or outdoor areas.


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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, and Cooking (New World Library, 2016).


Melania Padilla
Melania P2 years ago

No surprises here... Shared

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

chris B.
chris B2 years ago

Bill Arthur - people are not stupid. We know the difference between natural chemicals as in essential oils, of course they have chemicals within their dna. It's the manufactured synthetic toxic chemicals we all know are sprayed everywhere and killing everything. Natural chemicals are usually used within certain parameters. Again, we are not stupid. jeesh

chris B.
chris B2 years ago

Didn't read it. However, just received an email update from the EPA. They were telling us to use pesticides but be careful where you spray and dispose of it safely. So - what part of this chemical killer is safe???? ALL chemicals whether pesticide or other, they are all dangerous to everything living. Just stupid people running the EPA. They don't have a clue.

Aaron Johnson
Aaron Johnson2 years ago

Using pesticides can also cause pollution too! That's why I might need to get me a bug zapper indoors instead.

Julie W.
Julie W2 years ago

I think most of us knew this already! Bill Arthur, you are nit-picking. I know everything can be labelled a chemical, but I'm sure that we here on Care2 understand that the writer is referring to synthetic, factory-made chemicals. We don't need it spelled out for us.

Teresa Antela
Teresa Antela2 years ago

Thanks for sharing. Here at home and also garden do not use pesticides or herbicides besides suffering from allergies and asthma this wouldn't be thinkable.

Debbi -.
Debbi -2 years ago

Pesticides are dangerous and this has been known for a few decades. How many people and animals have to die before those dangerous chemicals are removed from the market and all use is permanently banned?!

Here we go again. Flagged: Alyssa G., Florence O., Sylvia s.

Glennis Whitney
Glennis W2 years ago

Great information. Thank you for caring and sharing.