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Links Between Disease & Pesticides

The movement to eliminate cosmetic pesticides, and to reduce or eliminate agricultural chemicals, gained momentum in 2004 with the release of a comprehensive review of pesticide research by the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP). The review shows consistent links between exposure to pesticides and serious illnesses such as cancer, reproductive problems and neurological diseases, among others. It also shows that children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides.

The OCFP is strongly recommending that people reduce their exposure to pesticides wherever possible. Many of the health problems linked with pesticide use are serious and difficult to treat - so we are advocating reducing exposure to pesticides and prevention of harm as the best approach, said one review author, Dr. Margaret Sanborn of McMaster University.

Key findings of the review:

The OCFP was most concerned about the impacts of pesticides on children. They noted that children are constantly exposed to low levels of pesticides in their food and environment, but found there have been few studies on the long-term effects of these exposures. Nevertheless, several studies that were reviewed found associations between pesticide exposures and cancer in children.

The OCFP is now encouraging its membership of 6700 physicians to begin to screen patients for pesticide exposure and to take pesticide exposure histories when non-specific symptoms are present, including fatigue, dizziness, low energy, rashes, weaknesses, sleep problems, anxiety, and depression.

In an effort to focus on prevention, OCFP members are encouraged to promote reduction of pesticide risk/use to individual patients and to advocate reduction of pesticide risk/use in the community, schools and hospitals, and to government.