Daily News Archive
Warn Public To Avoid Pesticides
(Beyond Pesticides, April 26, 2004) The Ontario College of
Family Physicians (OCFP) in Canada is strongly recommending that people
reduce their exposure to pesticides wherever possible, after releasing
a comprehensive review of research on the effects of pesticides on human
health. Released on April 23, 2004, Systematic
Review of Pesticides Human Health Effects shows consistent pesticide
links to serious illnesses such as cancer, reproductive problems and
neurological diseases, among others. The study also shows that children
are particularly vulnerable to pesticides.
The review found
consistent evidence of the health risks to patients with exposure to
pesticides. "Many of the health problems linked with pesticide
use are serious and difficult to treat - so we are advocating reducing
exposure to pesticides and prevention of harm as the best approach,"
said Dr. Margaret Sanborn of McMaster University, one of the review's
of the Review:
- Many studies
reviewed by the Ontario College show positive associations between
solid tumours and pesticide exposure, including brain cancer, prostate
cancer, kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer, among others.
- Previous studies
have pointed to certain pesticides, such as 2,4-D and related pesticides,
as possible precipitants of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), and the
findings of the College's review are clearly consistent with this.
- It is clear
from the review that an association exists between pesticide exposure
and leukemia. According to the College, the implication of pesticides
in the development of leukemia warrants further investigation and
also, political action.
- The review team
uncovered a remarkable consistency of findings of nervous system effects
of pesticide exposures.
exposure to agricultural chemicals may be associated with adverse
reproductive effects including: birth defects, fetal death and intrauterine
Children are constantly exposed to low levels of pesticides in their
food and environment, yet there have been few studies on the long-term
effects of these exposures. Nevertheless, the College reviewed several
studies that found associations between pesticide exposures and cancer
in children. Key findings include:
- An elevated risk
of kidney cancer was associated with paternal pesticide exposure through
agriculture, and four studies found associations with brain cancer.
- Several studies
in the review implicate pesticides as a cause of hematologic tumours
in children, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia.
- Some children
have overall increased risk of acute leukemia if exposed to pesticides
in utero or during childhood, especially for exposure to insecticides
and herbicides used on lawns, fruit trees and gardens, and for indoor
control of insects.
What the Public
Given the wide range of commonly used home and garden products associated
with health effects, the College's overall message to patients is to
avoid exposure to all pesticides whenever and wherever possible. This
includes reducing both occupational exposures, as well as lower level
exposures that occur from the use of pesticides in homes, gardens and
public green space. The College also advocates exposure reduction techniques
- Researching and
implementing alternative organic methods of lawn and garden care and
indoor pest control.
- Proper use of
personal protection equipment, including respirators for home and
- Education on
safe handling, mixing, storage and application when pesticide use
is considered necessary.
What Family Physicians
In the wake of this systemic review, the College is advocating that
family physicians take the following measures:
- Screen patients
for pesticides exposure at a level that may cause significant health
problems, and intervene if necessary.
- Take patient
pesticide exposure history when non-specific symptoms are present
- such as fatigue, dizziness, low energy, rashes, weaknesses, sleep
problems, anxiety, depression.
- Focus efforts
on prevention rather than on researching the causes of chronic or
- Consider high-risk
groups (e.g. children, pregnant women, seniors) in their practices.
- Advocate reduction
or pesticide risk/use to individual patients.
- Advocate reduction
of pesticide risk/use in the community, schools, hospitals and to
The Ontario College
of Family Physicians is a provincial chapter of the College of Family
Physicians of Canada and is a voluntary, not-for-profit association
that promotes family medicine in Ontario through leadership, education
and advocacy. The OCFP represents more than 6,700 family physicians
providing care for remote, rural, suburban, urban and inner-city populations
The OCFP is the
voice of family medicine in Ontario. At the heart of the organization
is the building and maintenance of high standards of practice and the
continuous improvement of access to quality family practice services
for all residents of Ontario.
The OCFP Study
is available on the Ontario
College's website. For more information contact: Josh Cobden or
Jennifer Casey, Environics Communications, 416-920-9000, [email protected];
Jan Kasperski, Ontario College of Family Physicians, 416-867-9646, [email protected].
Download a copy of the Canadian report and share it with your
doctor and with the local and state medical society in your state. For
a list of the state medical societies in your state, go to the website
directory of the American Medical Association and click on your
state. Please send Beyond Pesticides a copy of the letter you send to
your state and local medical society and any response that you receive.