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Study Finds Job-Related Exposure to Pesticide (Diazinon) May Increase Cancer Risk

Nov 30, 2005 | According to a new study by the Agricultural Health Study, a government funded program established in 1993 to examine the negative effects of pesticides on farming families in Iowa and North Carolina, regular exposure to the pesticide diazinon may cause lung and other types of cancer.

Diazinon (an organophosphate) is a pesticide that is derived from nerve gases that were introduced during World War II. In 2004 the chemical was removed from use in garden and lawn products because of evidence the substance could cause neurological disorders and other health problems that were not cancerous.

The findings of the recent study suggest a link between diazinon and lung cancer. Data showed that in 2002, 301 of 4,961 men who were exposed to the chemical in the workplace had developed lung cancer while only 968 of 18,145 of  the subjects without daily exposure to the chemical got cancer.

In the report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, Dr. Michael C. R. Alavanja from the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, and his colleagues stated: "We found evidence of an association of lung cancer and leukemia risk with increasing lifetime exposure days to diazinon."

The results corroborate a previous report by Agricultural Health Study which covered a less extensive period of time. The findings were also not impacted when cigarette smoking was accounted for, indicating that cigarettes do not explain the increased risk of lung cancer.

Although in a 1997 review of diazinon, the EPA classified the chemical as "not likely a human carcinogen" based on studies in rodents, the results from Agricultural Health Study confirms other laboratory and epidemiologic data that suggests the pesticide does pose a risk.

In response the EPA has offered to institute new restrictions on diazinon’s use. According to the 2004 data, about 4 million pounds of the chemical was applied agriculturally in America.

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