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Pesticide And Breast Cancer Book Launched

PesticideActionNetwork (PAN ANZ)
Aotearoa New Zealand

Pesticide And Breast Cancer Book Launched

Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand announces the launching of an important new book – Pesticides & Breast Cancer: A Wake Up Call, authored by New Zealand scientist, Dr Meriel Watts.

Three years in the writing, Pesticides & Breast Cancer: A Wake Up Call is a thorough assessment of the scientific evidence showing how exposure to even small levels of pesticides may be implicated in New Zealand’s epidemic of breast cancer.

More than 600 women die every year in New Zealand from breast cancer. New Zealand has one of the highest incidences of breast cancer in the world and our love affair with pesticides may well be one of the reasons behind this unfortunate statistic.

The book, described by Dr Devra Davis, Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh, as a “state of the art assessment” identifies 98 pesticides that increase the risk of breast cancer. More than 40 of these pesticides are still in use in New Zealand. They include widely available insecticides found in household fly sprays, herbicides like 2,4-D known to drift for miles after aerial application, and fungicides like mancozeb that are used by home gardeners.

They also include pesticides regularly found as residues in the New Zealand food supply – such as the persistent organochlorine insecticide endosulfan found in more than 30% of New Zealand tomatoes in recent residue testing by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.

All of these pesticides are known to cause mammary tumours in laboratory animals or are endocrine disruptors interfering with the body’s natural hormones (such as oestrogen, progesterone and prolactin) in ways that cause breast cancer cells to develop and grow. Some also undermine the immune system’s ability to kill off tumour cells. Breast cancer genesis is complex and there are many ways in which pesticides can interfere with the human body to accelerate the growth of tumours.

Whilst all females are at risk from these pesticides, those most at risk are young girls around puberty, newborn infants and the unborn foetus. Quite clearly women and girls, and particularly pregnant women, should not be exposed to any of these pesticides. Breast cancer can have a long latency period and exposures early in life, even in utero, can cause the disease to occur many years later – even generations latter according to recent research. When pregnant rats were exposed to the fungicide vinclozolin, there was increased incidence of breast cancer in the offspring in each of the four succeeding generations even though the last three of those generations had no actual exposure. This is known as a transgenerational effect.

Our blind belief in the safety of pesticides, especially those used in the home and garden, is jeopardising the health of women right now and in future generations.

The launch of Pesticides & Breast Cancer: A Wake Up Call takes place on Thursday February 28th at the Women’s Bookshop, Ponsonby, Auckland at 6pm.


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