Indoor Pesticides Linked to Leukemia, ADHD
Indoor pesticide use has now been linked to leukemia according to recent research. Other research has linked indoor pesticides to ADHD and other attention-related conditions. Furthermore, pesticide residues will remain present in houses long after spraying according to other studies. Learn about the alternatives.
Indoor pesticides and leukemia
In a 2018 study, scientists from France’s Catholic University of Louvain conducted a review of research between 1987 and 2018. They found 15 case-control studies that studied pesticide exposure and leukemia.
In their meta-analysis, the researchers found that household pesticide exposure increased the risk of leukemia in children and adolescence by an average of 57 percent. The researchers found this affected children whether or not the exposure began during pregnancy or sometime during childhood.
One of the more significant types of leukemia linked to pesticides was acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This was especially linked to children who were exposed when under two years old.
The researchers concluded:
“A positive association between domestic pesticide exposure and childhood leukemia is confirmed.”
Indoor pesticides and attention deficit conditions
While there is still more research needed, there is reason to believe that childhood incidence of ADHD (attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder) is linked to early pesticide exposure in children, especially when it comes to organophosphates.
In a 2013 study from scientists at Poland’s Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine found that indoor pesticide exposure was linked to a number of conditions. The researchers studied exposure to pesticide compounds including organophosphates, organochlorine and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). They found significant association between attention-related conditions and exposure to these pesticide compounds. The researchers wrote:
“Exposures to organochlorine pesticides and PCBs were associated with ADHD-like behaviors such as alertness, quality of alert response, and cost of attention.”
Indoor pesticides linger
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health has determined that pesticide residues linger among public housing for some time.
Over a three year period, the researchers tested 20 families living within a Boston housing development. The families had children between three and 11 years old, and the children spent at least 80% of their nights in the house.
The researchers collected environmental air samples from inside the homes, and they analyzed samples from wiping living room floors, children’s bathroom floors and the kitchen countertops of the homes.
The research found that 38 percent of the wiped samples contained pyrethroids such as permethrin, and cypermethrin in 24 percent of the wiped samples. They also found fenthion in 24 percent of the wipes and chlorpyrifos in 7 percent of wiped samples. In addition, eight different pesticides were found among indoor air samples.
Other pesticides, such as allethrin, fenvalerate, cyhalothrin, and fenpropath were found at levels of only 2–5 percent of wiped samples.
The researchers found average concentrations of permethrin to be about 2.5 micrograms per square meter and cypermethrin concentrations to be 3.87 micrograms per square meter.
Among air samples, the researchers found Diazinon in 70 percent of samplings, while chlorpyrifos was found in 40 percent of samples. Meanwhile, half of the households air contained at least one of five pesticides.
Furthermore, the researchers found pesticide residues for pesticides that were no longer on the market – indicating an extended lingering of the pesticides long after their use.
Organophosphate use continues
Organophosphate pesticides were banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2000, but this was a phase-out ban meaning they are still in use years after the ban. Pesticides such as Malathion, Phosmet and Azinphos-Methyl are the most common.
Illustrating this, a 2018 study from the University of Iowa collected samples of carpet dust from 278 households located near agricultural fields. After testing each home twice, the researchers found significant levels of organophosphorus pesticide residue in the carpet dust. The researchers compared this to homes that were located away from agricultural areas and found nowhere near those levels found in areas near commercial farms.
In another 2018 study, this from the University of Washington, scientists tested 418 households and 99 people who lived near orchards. The researchers found that concentrations of organophosphate pesticides were 400 percent higher in households when there were at least two residents of the house working in the orchards.
Commercial orchards also often use neonicotinoid pesticides, which are linked to bee colony collapse. Neonicotinoid pesticides are also neurotoxic to humans. Other pesticides such as Atrazine and Glyphosate are also harming humans and wildlife.
Since the ban on organophosphates, pyrethroids have become the most commonly used indoor pesticides. This was determined in a 2006 Environmental Protection Agency study of 168 child care centers by the U.S. This study found that 63 percent used indoor pesticides and the child care centers applied from one up to ten different pesticides – mostly organophosphates and pyrethroids. The study also found that pesticides were applied up to 107 times per year in some cases.
Safer pest control
However, smarter ways of applying pesticides – and the use of less toxic pesticides is necessary. Today there are a number of less- and non-toxic natural-based pesticides that can deter pests, and this can be combined with a strictly outdoor application of other pesticides if they are desired.
The issue is demand and focus by pesticide manufacturers: If we demand non-toxic pesticides, and choose the least-toxic versions, more will be made available and they will become cheaper. The study mentioned pyrethroids as well as others.
Pyrethroids are made from flowers of pyrethrums and are accepted by most to be significantly less toxic than organophosphates. But care must be taken to avoid pesticides that combine pyrethroids with more toxic chemicals.
Even though they are safer and will degrade faster, pyrethroids should still be applied in lower doses around children’s environments and away from surfaces children are playing on.
There are a number of other non-toxic options available. Here are some natural DIY natural pest control recipes. Other resources are available as well, and now many hardware stores carry non-toxic pest control alternatives, such as lemon- and flower-based sprays.
Using other pests can also help control the bad ones. These include daddy long-legs, which will take out mosquitoes, ants and other pests. Crickets are also very productive in removing pests. Perhaps this is where the ‘crickets are lucky’ reputation came from.
Van Maele-Fabry G, Gamet-Payrastre L, Lison D. Household exposure to pesticides and risk of leukemia in children and adolescents: Updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2018 Sep 26. pii: S1438-4639(18)30364-X. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2018.08.004.
Plascak JJ, Griffith WC, Workman T, Smith MN, Vigoren E, Faustman EM, Thompson B. Evaluation of the relationship between residential orchard density and dimethyl organophosphate pesticide residues in house dust. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2018 Sep 25. doi: 10.1038/s41370-018-0074-5.
Butler-Dawson J, Galvin K, Thorne PS, Rohlman DS. Organophosphorus pesticide residue levels in homes located near orchards. J Occup Environ Hyg. 2018 Aug 23:1-24. doi: 10.1080/15459624.2018.1515489.
Lu C, Adamkiewicz G, Attfield KR, Kapp M, Spengler JD, Tao L, Xie SH. Household pesticide contamination from indoor pest control applications in urban low-income public housing dwellings: a community-based participatory research. Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Feb 19;47(4):2018-25. doi: 10.1021/es303912n.
Tulve NS, Jones PA, Nishioka MG, Fortmann RC, Croghan CW, Zhou JY, Fraser A, Cavel C, Friedman W. Pesticide measurements from the first national environmental health survey of child care centers using a multi-residue GC/MS analysis method. Environ Sci Technol. 2006 Oct 15;40(20):6269-74.
Polańska K, Jurewicz J, Hanke W. Review of current evidence on the impact of pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and selected metals on attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder in children. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2013 Mar;26(1):16-38. doi: 10.2478/s13382-013-0073-7.