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Kids' leukemia from parents' exposures?

Kids' leukemia from parents' exposures?

A parent's workplace exposure to anyof several classes of chemicals--particularly chlorinated solvents--or use of incense or pesticides around the home may increase children's risk of developing leukemia, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. In fact, the study suggests, the leukemia risks posed by parental exposure to or use of some of these chemicals may be greater for young children than for developing fetuses.

While this is not the first study tosuggest a tie between parental chemical exposures and childhood cancer, it is the first to link a child's leukemia with a parent's reported exposure--both before and after birth--to particular chemicals. Moreover, says John M. Peters, an occupational epidemiologist and one of the study's authors, though carbon tetrachloride, tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene are known animal carcinogens, this is only the second major published epidemiologic study to suggest strongly that these chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents are also human carcinogens. (The previous study, reported by Peters a few years ago, linked parental exposure to such solvents with chilhood brain cancer.)

The new study, reported in the JulyJOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE, surveyed 123 pairs of Los Angeles County families. Each pair contained one family with a leukemic child under 10 years old and one family with a healthy child (matched for age, race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status and sex).

A father's workplace exposure to chlorinatedsolvents increased his child's risk of developing leukemia, and the risk increased with frequency of exposure-- to eight times the expected rate when fathers encountered the solvents at least weekly (levels of parental exposure were not measured). Peters surmises that fathers exposed their children, who may have ingested or inhaled traces of the chemical brought home on the fathers' clothes or breath. Similar exposures to spray paint, cutting oil, methyl ethyl ketone and dyes or pigments also showed signs of increasing a child's risk of developing leukemia--again in a pattern that increased with does--although the study's sample size was too small to be statistically significant.

More surprising were the notably increasedrisks, during nursing and pregnancy, associated with a parent's use of either incense or household and garden pesticides. The pesticide finding "is certainly consistent' with scores of studies linking these chemicals to cancer, says Shelia Hoar Zahm of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and an author of a study (SN: 9/13/86, p. 167) linking a major pesticide to lymphomas, a class of tumors related to leukemias. What's relatively new here, Zahm points out, is a pesticide-cancer link affecting children.

Peters says the California researchers,not expecting household chemicals to contribute much to leukemia risk, failed to collect data on specific pesticides used, incense or pesticide use after a baby's delivery and whether incense burning accompanied use of recreational drugs. To resolve some of the questions these data have raised, the researchers are now in the process of conducting a follow-up survey of the original families.
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Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 18, 1987
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