LYMPHOMA FOUNDATION OF AMERICA
U.S. SENATE CANCER COALITION HEARING
JUNE 5, 2001
Thank you, Senator Feinstein, for the opportunity to present this committee with evidence of the relationship between pesticides and blood-related cancers -- especially lymphoma -- which has resulted in "hot spots" with very high rates of lymphoma in areas with high use of agricultural chemicals. I am Susan Osburn, Research Director for the Lymphoma Foundation of America. I have also been asked to represent the International Myeloma Foundation on this issue.
Over the last 20 years, a time when many cancers have been decreasing in the United States, lymphoma has been increasing. The National Cancer Institute has called this increase an epidemic. The Lymphoma Foundation of America wants to delve into the causes of this epidemic and to alert our government and our people to this public health problem.
Attached to this testimony/comment are two maps. The first, prepared by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, shows patterns of deaths from lymphoma in our country during the years 1970-1994. You can see from the bright red areas that some areas have many more deaths from lymphoma than others. The statistics used to make these maps were not just based on numbers of deaths, but were adjusted for population and even for different average ages of the population in different parts of the country. There are some very large "hot spots" in the Midwestern states, especially in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois, and Michigan, and also "hot spots" in other areas, notably the Gulf Coast and areas of both New England and the Pacific Northwest.
The second map, prepared by the U.S. Geologic Survey, shows the areas of our nation which have the greatest amount of herbicides (weed killers) in the groundwater. You can easily see that these two maps are very similar, especially in the Midwest.
The third map is a National Cancer Institute map showing deaths from myeloma, another blood-related cancer. This map also follows patterns similar to the first two maps.
The similarity in these maps is no coincidence. In fact, scores of research studies have been carried out, worldwide, to investigate the relationship between pesticides and lymphoma. The Lymphoma Foundation of America has published a report on the worldwide scientific literature concerning this subject, entitled Do Pesticides Cause Lymphoma? I would like to request that this document be entered into the record as well. 117 scientific studies and articles are included in this report, and the majority of them show a link between lymphoma and pesticides. In some of the studies, other cancers are also linked with pesticide exposures, including breast cancer, leukemia, myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma.
America's farmers, who produce our nation's food, are at highest risk for lymphoma. They are exposed to pesticides in their work in the fields and also in their drinking water, as the chemicals leach into the groundwater that feeds their wells. Some studies have also suggested that exposure to nitrates, which enter groundwater and drinking water after heavy fertilizer use, may also be a factor in the high rates of lymphoma and deaths from lymphoma which we see in Midwestern farmers.
Urban dwellers also face frequent pesticide exposures through public and private use of insecticides and weed killers in lawn care, garden care, in the extermination of "pests" from homes, businesses, and public buildings, and in public areas such as parks and schools. Perhaps surprisingly to some, scientists have discovered that weed killers (herbicides) are associated with increased lymphoma risks even more frequently than are insecticides.
America's children are at risk as well. In December of 2000, a study conducted in your state of California and published in the journal Cancer(1) showed that children whose parents use pesticides have elevated risks of lymphoma, even if the exposures occur to the mother while the child is still in the womb. The most alarming finding - though all the findings in this study were alarming - was that when parents use pesticides in the home almost every day, their children have over 7 times the expected incidence of lymphoma.
Certainly parents would not use these pesticides in their homes if they realized that they could be killing their children as well as the pests. But the parents don't know about these chemical risks - most Americans don't know about them.
Lymphoma is not a "nice" cancer to have. This year, over 62,000 Americans will die from lymphoma. Many lymphoma patients have the so-called "indolent" or slow-growing type of lymphoma. At present, there is no known cure for this disease. Patients often undergo a series of various treatments over a period of years, only to have their cancer recur over and over again. I personally work as a counselor for patients with this disease and do what I can to help them face their hopes, their fears, their difficult medical choices, and the often devastating effects of their treatments. Then, sometimes I must attend their funerals.
Myeloma is also a devastating disease, striking at the body's blood-making factory in the bone marrow. My own aunt died of myeloma twenty years ago in Illinois.
The Lymphoma Foundation of America and the International Myeloma Foundation are calling for:
- Increased funding to the epidemiology arm of the National Cancer Institute for study of the relationship of pesticides and other chemical exposures to all blood cancers, including lymphoma and myeloma.
- Required labeling for pesticides, especially those most frequently linked with increased cancer rates, to warn purchasers and applicators of the cancer risks.
- Improved EPA regulation and enforcement of regulation regarding all pesticide uses, residues in foods, and water supplies.
Thank you for the committee's consideration of this important issue, and again, thank you, Senator Feinstein, for the opportunity to present this information to the committee.
Susan Osburn, Research Director
Lymphoma Foundation of America
Collaborating Partner, National Dialogue on Cancer
Patient Advocate Participant, National Cancer Institute Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma Progress Review Group
1. (Buckley, J.D.; Meadows, A.T.; Kadin, M.E.; Le Beau, M.M; Siegel, S.; & Robison, L.L. Pesticide exposures in children with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Cancer 2000 89: 2315-2321 (Dec. 1, 2000)