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University Releases Childhood Cancer Study


Lowellߞ;Toxic chemicals can cause cancer in children, according to evidence analyzed in a new report on childhood cancer in Massachusetts released at a press conference today. The report was prepared by researchers at the UMass Lowell Center for Sustainable Production under contract with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow.

The authors conclude that there is strong evidence that certain chemicals, such as pesticides, solvents, petrochemicals and certain industrial by-products can cause cancer in children, particularly leukemia, brain and central nervous system cancers. This means that a potentially large percentage of childhood cancers is preventable.

The report also finds higher rates of cancer among African American and Latino children in Massachusetts than among other groups.

The full report can be accessed at: Chemicals and Childhood Cancer Full Report_tcm18-229899.pdf

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Childhood Cancer
Childhood cancer is the second largest cause of death among children. A new report says many of these cancers are caused by exposure to toxins in the environment.

Childhood Cancer

May 8, 2003 5:42 pm US/Eastern
Childhood cancer is the second largest cause of death among children. A new report says many of these cancers are caused by exposure to toxins in the environment.

That's right and what's important about these cancers that are caused by environmental exposure to dangerous chemicals can and should be preventable.

Marilyn Cox, Wilmington resident
"...It came back and it was a very rare cancer."

Marilyn Cox’s granddaughter Danielle was diagnosed with cancer. One in a cluster of more than 20 childhood cancer victims in Wilmington. Cox believes town water caused Danielle’s illness.

Marilyn Cox
"I think the children, they bathe in the water, they play in the soil and these chemicals are seeping in and I think it absolutely has to do with the water."

A report released today concludes that toxic environmental exposures do indeed cause childhood cancer

Joel Tickner, UMass Lowell
"...The picture is quite clear that chemicals in the air, food, water and every day products can cause childhood cancer."

The report commissioned by the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow lists common pesticides and solvents among the chemicals.

Some sample statistics:

Kids with leukemia are 4 to 7 times more likely to have been exposed to yard pesticides

Kids with brain cancer are 11 times more likely to have mothers exposed to foggers or pesticide sprays during pregnancy

Researchers say definite causal links are hard to establish -- but this should not make people believe exposure is safe ...

"By the time we have that proof of damage it will be too late -- too many children will have been exposed to chemicals that might cause cancer."

"This infects every living person, plant, animal and they cannot put a price on a life."

And, there's good news for Wilmington’s Marilyn Cox -- her granddaughter is now cancer free.

Metrowest Daily News (

Household toxins linked to cancer 

By Michelle Hillman
Friday, May 9, 2003

A new report based on dozens of scientific studies shows childhood cancers are on the rise in Massachusetts and concludes that exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment, home, food and workplace play a role.

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell report concluded there is strong evidence that pesticides, solvents, petrochemicals and certain industrial byproducts can cause cancer in children, particularly leukemia, brain and central nervous system cancers.

"There's increased evidence of environmental links to childhood cancer," said Joel Tickner, co-author of the study. "Rates of childhood cancer are going up."

Commissioned by the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, the report, published by UMass Lowell's Center for Sustainable Production, was based on at least 50 previously published studies. Researchers looked for common threads in existing evidence.

Higher rates of cancer were found in African-American and Latino children.

Alba Cruz, a member of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, said children in urban areas have a greater exposure level to toxins and are unfairly predisposed to cancer.

"Low-income children and their families are exposed by virtue of the environment and the occupation of their parents," she said.

Tickner, a research professor at UMass Lowell, said while there was no one study that was a smoking gun, when taken together the evidence bolsters the argument that certain toxins can cause cancer in children.

"It definitely raises plenty of concern," said Tickner. "You're seeing the same sorts of cancers in adults exposed to the same chemicals."

Among the findings:

@aro:UChildren have an increased likelihood of certain types of cancer if they or their parents have been exposed to pesticides and solvents. One study found children were 11 times more likely to develop brain cancer if their mothers were exposed to pesticide sprays or foggers during pregnancy.

@aro:UChildren whose parents are exposed to petroleum-based products or combustion byproducts such as dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have increased the likelihood of leukemia, possibly brain and central nervous system cancers.

@aro:UChildren can face an increased likelihood of cancer if they or their parents were exposed to these chemicals prior to conception, in the womb, or in early childhood.

@aro:UAfrican-American and Latino children in Massachusetts had approximately 25 percent more diagnosed cancers than white, Asian and Pacific Islander children.

@aro:UIn Massachusetts, approximately 2,688 children under age 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 394 died from 1990 to 1999.

Tickner said the study as well as a recent announcement by a panel of experts at Mount Sinai Hospital are proof that other factors besides genetics cause cancer.

Mount Sinai experts concluded that genetic predisposition accounts for no more than 20 percent of all childhood cancers and that environmental factors could account for 5 percent to 90 percent of childhood cancers.

Childhood cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 15 and younger in the United States with more than 8,000 cases diagnosed each year.

Tickner said the study was limited due to the fact that childhood cancers are rare and many studies used were based on self-reports from people asked to report exposures that occurred up to 10 years earlier.

Richard Clapp, who contributed to the report called Toxic Chemicals Can Cause Childhood Cancer, said the report was striking.

Clapp, formerly of the Department of Public Health, which tracks childhood cancers, is a professor of environmental affairs at the Boston University School of Public Health.

He said the studies show a combination of exposures to toxins like those found in drinking water, lawn chemicals or household products have a greater chance of leading to certain cancers.

Clapp said the exposures are preventable but not enough is being done to make sure products on the market are safe. Many people who use solvents or pesticides in the home believe the products have been tested and are safe.

"People are not aware," he said. "There's inadequate testing on a lot of these products."

Tickner said people can avoid exposure by substituting products with toxins. Examples of environmental toxins include: solvents in the glues used to install a wood floor; petroleum and combustion byproducts from incinerated materials: combustion byproducts from diesel trucks; pesticides used on the lawn and garden; and solvents brought into the home by a parent who might work in manufacturing or a paint factory.

Clapp and Tickner said the government should play a greater role in testing chemicals for toxins. The European Union soon will require all commercial chemicals be tested and those known to be carcinogens or toxins may only be used when there aren't other alternatives.

"It's very difficult to purchase organic products," said Cruz. "We assume as consumers, when we go out to the Home Depot, that what we're purchasing is safe. Unfortunately that's not the case."