P A N U P S -Pesticide Action Network Updates Service
Two New Warnings on Pesticides & Chemicals
June 15, 2004
In April, Canadian family physicians issued a strong warning on the risks of exposure to pesticides, noting the number of studies linking cancer, reproductive problems and neurological diseases with commonly used pesticides. The following month in Paris, medical specialists from Europe, Canada and the U.S. released an International Declaration on Diseases Due to Chemical Pollution, calling the number of untested chemicals in the environment "a serious threat to children and to Man's survival."
The April report by the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) on the chronic effects of exposure to pesticides contained sweeping recommendations to cut pesticide exposures, including curtailing pesticide use wherever possible, using personal protective equipment including respirators for home and occupational exposures, and urging physicians to advocate for pesticide reduction and screen their patients for pesticide exposure.
OCFP, a voluntary, not-for-profit association that promotes family medicine, reviewed 250 peer-reviewed studies published between 1992 and 2003 on the human health effects of pesticides. The researchers found compelling evidence of links between pesticide exposure and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the incidence of which continues to rise in Canada at the rate of 1 - 1.5% per year. Other findings included associations between pesticide exposures and solid tumors, including brain cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer.
The family physicians emphasized the special vulnerability of children to pesticide exposure, and reported both elevated risks of kidney cancer and associations of pesticide exposure with brain cancer among children with paternal exposure to agricultural pesticides. The study noted that some children had an overall increased risk of acute leukemia if exposed to pesticides in utero or during childhood, especially if those exposures included pesticides used on lawns, fruit trees, gardens, or indoor insecticides.
The Canadian physicians' review also noted a "remarkable consistency" of study findings on nervous system effects of pesticide exposure and on links between occupational exposure to pesticides and reproductive effects, such as birth defects, fetal death and intrauterine growth retardation.
The Paris declaration, in addressing the vast multitude of chemicals in the environment, noted several alarming health trends as well including the increase in chronic diseases, the rise in the global incidence of cancers at all ages, the progressive increase since 1950 in non-smoking related cancers in industrialized countries, the European annual increase of 0.8% in childhood cancers, and rising rates of sterility, with 15% of European couples now infertile.
Signed by 80 medical experts, including two winners of the Nobel Prize for medicine, Jean Dausset and Francois Jacob, the declaration was endorsed by cancer specialists, pediatricians, epidemiologists and toxicologists. Noting the combination of chemicals in the environment made it "extremely difficult to establish, on a epidemiological level" a definitive and causal link between individual chemicals and subsequent health problems, the Declaration called for implementation of the Precautionary Principle to protect public health. "The EU 2001 REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals) initiative details unprecedented, and overdue legislative proposals for the regulation of industrial chemicals, based on the Precautionary Principle; this initiative should be strengthened, rather than weakened following strong opposition by EU and U.S. chemical industries."
Sources: Ontario College of Family Physicians Pesticides Paper, http://www.ocfp.on.ca/English/OCFP/Communications/CurrentIssues/Pesticides/default.asp?s=1;
News Release, April 23, 2004, Comprehensive Review of Pesticide Research Confirms Dangers, http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/April2004/23/c4416.html?view=Print; International Declaration on diseases due to chemical pollution, in English, http://appel.artac.info/anglais.htm; Specialists issue alert on chemicals and health, ENDS Environment Daily, May 11, 2004, http://www.environmentdaily.com/articles/index.cfm?action=article&ref=16651.