Environmental Health News

What's Working

  • Garden Mosaics projects promote science education while connecting young and old people as they work together in local gardens.
  • Hope Meadows is a planned inter-generational community containing foster and adoptive parents, children, and senior citizens
  • In August 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board voted to ban soft drinks from all of the district’s schools

#38 - Chemical Exposures Of Parents At Work Or Use Of Pesticides Around Home May Give Children Leuke, 16-Aug-1987

A parent's use of pesticides around the home, or workplace exposure to
any of several classes of chemicals (especially chlorinated solvents)
can increase children's risk of developing leukemia, according to a new
study reported in the July issue of the JOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL CANCER
INSTITUTE (pgs. 39-46).

Authors of the study are a team of researchers at the Medical School,
University of Southern California at Los Angeles. They studied 123
pairs of families; each pair contained one family with a child less
than 10 years old with leukemia, and one family with a healthy child
(matched for age, race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status and sex).

Parental exposure to pesticides inside the home, or in a family garden,
increase children's risk of leukemia, the study shows. The use of
incense in the home also increased the risk. Because they did not
expect to find an association between household chemicals and leukemia,
the researchers did not inquire about the types of pesticides used.
They are re-interviewing the families now to improve their
understanding of the problem. Previous studies have linked pesticide
use to leukemia among farmers; this is the first study showing a link
between household pesticides and leukemia in children.

This is only the second study showing a cancer link between humans and
chlorinated solvents. Many studies of animals have shown carbon
tetrachloride, tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene to be animal
carcinogens, and one earlier study linked children's brain tumors to
parental exposures to these solvents. [See J.M. Peters and others,
"Brain Tumors in Children and Occupational Exposure of Parents."
SCIENCE Vol. 213 (1981), pgs. 235-237.]

The present study also showed that parents' exposures to spray paint,
cutting oil, methyl ethyl ketone, and to dyes and pigments, increased
the risk of leukemia in their children.

Parents bring the chemicals home on their skin and clothing and on
their breath. An adult's breath can carry chlorinated solvents for
hours after exposure has ceased. Mothers may expose their infant
children through breast milk. The greatest risk is to exposed infants
and very young children. The parental occupations with strongest links
to children's leukemia were machinery manufacture and airplane
manufacture for the fathers and personal service (beauty shop
operators, domestic servants, and laundry operators) for the mothers.

For a reprint, contact J.M. Peters, Department of Preventive Medicine,
University of Southern California School of Medicine, 1420 San Pablo
St., PMB B-306, Los Angeles, CA 90033. Ask for "Childhood Leukemia and
Parents' Occupational and Home Exposures."

--Peter Montague



In the U.S., 25 million workers (one out of every four workers) is
exposed to one or more hazardous chemicals on the job. A recent federal
law, called the Hazard Communication Standard (or HCS), requires the
manufacturers of hazardous chemicals to tell their customers about the
hazards; the law further requires the buyers of hazar dous chemicals to
tell their workers about the hazards. The purpose of the law is to get
information about hazardous chemicals into the hands of the people who
work with those chemicals.

Every employer using hazardous materials is supposed to develop a
program for telling workers about the hazards. The program is supposed
to have two parts: labeling of containers that hold hazardous
materials, so workers can know what they're handling; and MSDSs
[material safety data sheets]. An MSDS describes a chemical and any
known hazards associated with it. An MSDS is supposed to be readily
available in the workplace for each hazardous chemical that workers may
be exposed to.

A third component of the Hazard Communication Standard is a training
program, to help workers understand (and avoid ill effects from) the
hazards they encounter on the job.

The federal agency that's supposed to oversee compliance with the HCS
law is OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Knowing
how to contact OSHA, and knowing what to expect from OSHA (knowing your
rights) is essential to getting effective help from OSHA.

We have found a terrific little (75 page) book that describes the HCS
law, tells workers their rights, tells them how to evaluate the HCS
program in their shop, tells how OSHA works, and tells what to do if
things aren't right. It's $6.95 from: the Occupational Safety and
Health Law Center, 1536 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; phone

--Peter Montague



The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has issued final
regulations requiring the federal Department of Energy (DOE) to comply
with RCRA (the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) for any waste
streams that contain hazardous nonradioactive chemicals. Under the
EPA's final rule, any hazardous non-radioactive chemicals at DOE sites
will be subject to EPA and state control under RCRA; the radioactive
component of those waste streams will continue to be regulated by the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission or by DOE itself, under the Atomic Energy
Act. [See FEDERAL REGISTER Vol. 52, No. 84, pgs. 15937 to 15941, or
contact Henry Garson, Ass't General Counsel for Environment, GC11, DOE,
1000 Independence Ave., SW, Wash., DC 20585; phone (202) 586-6947.]

DOE originally argued that all its wastes were exempt from RCRA.
However in April, 1984, settling a lawsuit called Leaf vs. Hodell, the
judge declared DOE subject to RCRA.

At its 30 research and production facilities, DOE produces 12 million
tons of radioactive waste each year, almost all of it a combination of
radioactive and nonradioactive hazardous chemicals. DOE housekeeping
and record-keeping during the past 40 years has been, in a word,
sloppy. DOE has used, and in some cases still uses, unlined seepage
basins and evaporation ponds for much of its liquid wastes and unlined
pits and landfills for its solid wastes. Bringing DOE's mixed wastes
under RCRA control should open up DOE's operations to increased
scrutiny by citizens.

--Peter Montague


Descriptor terms: rtk; occupational safety and health; osha; hazard
communication standard; regulations; training; hazardous chemicals;
doe; federal; rcra; radioactive waste; nuclear regulatory commission;
landfilling; liquids; liquid wastes; pesticides; indoor air pollution;
occupational safety and health; cancer; leukemia; incense; carbon
tetrachloride; trichloroethylene; dyes; pigments; methyl ethyl ketone;

Error. Page cannot be displayed. Please contact your service provider for more details. (27)