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Child Cancers in St. Lucie, Florida - image loading

Information on suspected causes of brain and neurological cancers, neuroblastoma, leukemia, aplastic anemia and the increase in
cancers found in St. Lucie County, Florida

Information compiled by Wayne Sinclair, M.D.
Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
Richard W. Pressinger, M.Ed.
3036 20th Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960, (561) 778-1944

Cancer Information Index

Please click any topic to view the research or scroll web pages below:

New York Times article (9/29/97) discusses recent child cancer increases
Modern chemicals primary suspect
Introduction to child cancers and chemicals 
Summary of the research by Dr. Sinclair, M.D.,  Trends for brain cancer, facts, theories.
Brain tumor suspected from chlordane ingestion
Milk consumed during pregnancy contaminated with pesticide chlordane
Brain Cancer Cluster
High rates surround petrochemical plant
High pesticide levels found in cancer patients
High pesticide levels found in fat tissue - link suggested
Neuroblastoma Information
Defining neuroblastoma - child cases - links to toxic chemicals in home
Diet Drinks Linked to Brain Cancer
Why scientists now believe Nutrasweet can contribute to brain cancer
Pesticide Applicators Dying of Brain Cancer
This is one of several studies showing high brain cancer rates for licensed pesticide applicators
Large Increase in Brain Cancers Found for People Living near Agriculture
This 1996 study sends a warning to people who live close to agriculture growing areas.  
Child Brain Cancers & Home Pesticide Use
Several home pesticide practices now being shown to increase child brain cancer
Child Cancer Survey Form
Do you have a child with cancer or know a  child with cancer? Help us pinpoint the main environmental factors contributing to the causes of brain and blood cancers in children by answering the questions on the survey. This is a very important research project that will help overcome the politics inhibiting progress in this area. Those completing the survey will receive detailed research updates as well as the results of the Cancer Remission Survey which details lifestyle changes implemented by families who have had cancer remissions.
Thank you - Chem-Tox
Cancer Remission Survey
If you know of anyone who has experienced a spontaneous remission of brain cancer or other cancers please have them fill out this very important form to identify factors that may have led to the remission.   These factors are often overlooked (i.e. moving into another home, stopping pest control services, etc.). 
Brain Cancer Website by University of Iowa Medical Center
The U of Iowa is trying to update this site so it may not be currently operational. This is a 20 page web site on brain cancer giving information on types of brain cancer, causes of brain cancer, diagnosis, treatments, side effects, etc.  Appears non-biased.   This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine and reviewed by the National Cancer Institute.  Use you "BACK" button to return to us after viewing this site.

New Information will be added weekly - please check back with us

New York Times Article Discusses Rise in Child Cancers
NEW YORK TIMES, September 29, 1997

The September 29, 1997 New York Times article entitled "New Toxins Suspected as Cancer Rate Rises in Children"  discussed the rises being seen in child cancers over the past 20 years.  Specific quotes from the article include the following:

Article by John H. Cushman, Jr.
New York Times
September 29, 1997


Introduction to Child Cancers, Chemicals and Pesticides
by Wayne Sinclair, M.D. 

The increase in childhood brain tumors and cancers in central east Florida has fortunately begun a more thorough investigation into the elevated brain cancer rates for our area.  This is long overdue. As a physician involved in the treatment and research of chemically induced illnesses and immune system toxicology (the study of how chemicals weaken the immune system), I am watching with interest the direction state investigators choose for research

I was disturbed by a local newspaper report of a comment made by one state investigator stating there is "no solid base of information to start from." To the contrary, there is currently excellent information available regarding suspected causes of related brain and blood cancers to help point us in the right direction. First, statistically brain cancer has been increasing over the past 60 years and researchers agree this is not just attributable to improved diagnosis. Each year more than 16,000 children and adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with a brain tumor.  The brain cancer figures below, from the American Cancer Society, show a disturbing trend in the number of cases being found per 100,000 population:

1940.... 1.95 per 100,000 population
1945.... 2.25 per 100,000
1950.... 2.90 per 100,000
1955.... 3.40 per 100,000
1960.... 3.70 per 100,000
1965.... 3.85 per 100,000
1970.... 4.10 per 100,000
1975.... 4.25 per 100,000

These figures showing a steady increase are true for all industrialized countries, and therefore, strongly implicate chemicals used in modern society. The fact that similar increases are occurring in children also point out this is not just an effect among aging Americans.

The next question we need to ask is which chemicals have been linked to brain cancers? Identified risk factors for brain cancers now include workers exposed to chemicals used in vinyl and rubber production, as well as an increased risk for workers employed at oil refineries or chemical manufacturing plants. Exposure to chemicals called nitrosamines, such as in cured meats and baby pacifiers, have also been implicated. Another study by the National Cancer Institute of 3,827 Florida Pest Control Operators found they had approximately twice the normal rate of brain cancer. Dr. Jack Leiss and David Savitz reported in the 1995 American Journal of Public Health of several studies showing pesticide exposure increases risks for childhood cancer. This included one study which found over twice the risk of brain cancer for children exposed to household insecticide extermination. Also reported was research by Dr. Ellen Davis of children with brain cancer under 10 years of age. This study found children with brain cancer had 6.2 times greater exposure to certain pesticides. A 1987 study by the University of Southern California found children exposed to home and lawn pesticide use had a 6.5 times increased risk of developing leukemia.

One of the strongest links of pesticides causing child cancer comes from research of children developing neuroblastoma after their homes were treated with the pesticide chlordane. Researchers at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Washington, D.C. reported of 5 cases of child neuroblastoma which were suspected to have occurred following chlordane treatment in or around the home. In one case, a 3 year 9 month old boy developed neuroblastoma after his family moved into a new home. Two years prior to the child's birth and also when he was two years old, the house was treated for termite infestation with chlordane. This report also discussed other cancers following chlordane treatment, which included 3 cases of aplastic anemia and 3 cases of leukemia. 25 other cases of cancers were reported elsewhere following chlordane home exposure. Many of these cases have moved into litigation.

Another study appearing in the 1981 journal CANCER, detected high levels of chlordane in 13 children with cancer. Researchers have stated that chlordane is a high risk chemical for brain cancer because it is a fat soluble compound and therefore has the potential to accumulate in the brain.

In regards to the so called safety tests conducted by chemical companies on pesticides, there is unfortunately no consideration given to the fact that the developing fetus has been reported to be 50 times more vulnerable to the harm of cancer causing chemicals. Also, the EPA does not take into account that a newborn child does not develop an efficient blood brain barrier until at least one year after birth. The blood brain barrier functions to keep toxic substances out of the brain and is believed to be the reason why epilepsy is shown to be an increased risk factor for developing brain cancer, as epileptic patients have been found to have lower blood brain barrier function.

One reason scientists are still extremely concerned about chlordane is the fact that although its use was stopped in the U.S. in April of 1988, chlordane is such an extremely persistent pesticide that it is still being detected in the air of homes today. In fact, tests of over 1000 homes performed by the U.S. Air Force and other agencies have come to the conclusion that approximately 75% of all homes built before 1988 are contaminated with chlordane and that 6-7% are suspected of being over the maximum safe levels set by the National Academy of Sciences. This is such a large number of homes that toxicologist Dr. Samuel Epstein stated in a major medical journal that, "A national program for monitoring all homes treated is urgently needed to detect persistent contamination." Dr. David Cassidy, a chlordane research toxicologist in Texas, stated that the chlordane contamination problem is of such magnitude nationally that it is, "causing more harm than that caused by cigarette smoking." This is a very strong statement, but one that I certainly agree and brings to reality the magnitude of the problem.

Next we need to look at the research explaining how and why pesticides can be increasing the risk of child cancers. The explanations now show that pesticides are able to cause at least two biological changes in the body that enable cancer to grow. First, pesticides have shown the ability to damage our DNA and genetic structure and the second is that pesticides are now being found to seriously weaken the human immune system. All of us develop cancer cells on a regular basis and it is our immune system which literally attacks and removes these cancer cells from our body.

Regarding children with neuroblastoma, there have been several studies done finding these children frequently have damage to the end of what is called chromosome number 1. Scientists believe this part of the chromosome may be responsible for suppressing tumor growth or controlling cell growth. This genetic damage is not observed in other cells in these children.

Children with neuroblastoma are being found to have defects in the part of their immune system which removes cancer from the body. For instance, it was found by researchers at the University of Hamburg, Germany, that the blood of normal healthy people contains antibodies called IgM which seek out and destroy neuroblastoma cells. However, in a test of 11 people with neuroblastoma, none had properly working IgM antibodies. Other parts of the immune system which have been found to attack neuroblastoma and cancer cells are our cells called natural killer cells and macrophages. In studies of macrophages and cancer, conducted by the Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, it was found that exposure to chlordane literally paralyzed the ability of macrophages to search and destroy cancer cells. Certainly, this raises legitimate questions to the role of chlordane and other pesticides in and around homes of children with cancer. It is also of concern, that the two counties showing the highest rates of childhood cancer, St. Lucie and Indian River, are the same two counties with the highest proportion of the area devoted to growing citrus.

Although there are many chemicals a child can be exposed to which can damage his/her chromosome structure, we need to first investigate chemicals the child may have been exposed to on a repeated basis. Therefore, our researchers must look at pesticides which may have been applied inside or around the homes (such as chlordane) as well as pesticides that may have been used in agriculture in the nearby area.

If you have a child with any form of cancer please help us identify the main environmental causes of this illness (many of which are often overlooked) by completing the survey form before you leave our web site by clicking on the link - Child Cancer Survey Form.   Thank you - Wayne Sinclair, M.D.


Gliosarcoma Appears in Newborn - Pesticide Suspected
SOURCE: Neurosurgery, 21(4):557-559, 1987

A 7 week old boy, was admitted to the Arkansas Children's Hospital because of vomiting and a dramatic increase in head size. During the mother's pregnancy, she was stated as being extremely cautious about her nutrition and personal habits. She did not drink alcohol or smoke tobacco and had no known exposure to toxins in her work environment as a store clerk. She did, however, begin drinking more than one-half gallon of milk a day during pregnancy and continued drinking milk after delivery. It was later reported that the milk products she was drinking from her local dairy contained  unacceptably high levels of the pesticide heptachlor due to feeding of livestock with heptachlor contaminated feed. Heptachlor is a primary ingredient in the pesticide chlordane and has been used in agriculture and as a termite treatment for homes.

After entering the hospital at 7 weeks of age, her child was diagnosed with a gliosarcoma brain tumor. Family members have shown no incidence of brain tumors so hereditary factors were ruled out. Genetic mutations were detected in the cancer cells but not in other cells of the child's body. The researchers stated these chromosome abnormalities are detected in about 50% of all gliosarcomas and that heptachlor has tested positive for mutagenic properties. The researchers also quoted another study appearing in the journal CANCER, 48:774, 1981, which found high levels of chlordane and heptachlor in the blood of 13 childhood cancer cases.

William Chadduck, M.D., Susanne Gollin, Ph.D., Brian Gray, M.S., James Norris, Ph.D.
Departments of Neurogsurgery, Pathology, Cytogenetics and Internal Medicine University of Arkansas for Medical Science, Little Rock, Arkansas


Brain Cancer Cluster Surrounds Petrochemical Plant
Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, 43:117-129, 1994

An unusually high number of bone, bladder and brain cancers were found to be occurring among children living in a residential area near 3 petrochemical plants between 1981 and 1990. The children ranged in age from 0-19 years. Upon reviewing 28 death certificates of these three types of cancers, 27 of the children lived within 2-3 kilometers (approx. 1.0-2.0 miles) from the chemical plants.   According to the pollution reports compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency of the Republic of China, nine serious air pollution events occurred in these chemical plant districts which released the chemicals vinyl chloride and acrylonitrile.  Other chemical sources from the plants included polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and well-water contamination with the chemical phenol, which was found far over government safety guidelines.

Drs. Bi Jen Pan, Yu Jue Hong, Gwo Chin Chang, Ming Tsan Wang
School of Public Health, Kaosiung Medical College, Taiwan, China


Cancer Patients found to have Higher Pesticide Residues in Body
SOURCE: Environmental Research, 23:257-263, 1980 

Twenty-seven patients who died from cancer were found to have significantly higher levels of pesticides in their fat tissues in comparison to forty-four people who died from other illnesses.

Researchers at the School of Medicine, Odense University, Denmark, surveyed a total of 71 people who died either from cancer or from another illness.  Samples of fat tissue were removed from the abdomen of each deceased individual.  Investigators then analyzed the fat tissue to determine the levels of chlorinated chemicals DDE and PCB's. DDE is the break-down product of the pesticide DDT which is still used today on foreign grown produce and in orange and grapefruit production as a by-product in the pesticide "KELTHANE."  PCB's are still found in older fluorescent light fixtures and as a coolant in common power transformers seen on telephone poles.  Significant releases of PCB exposure can occur in older schools and offices which still have their power transformers inside the building (a common practice at one time) and can occur after lightning strikes on outdoor power transformers or as leaks occur on older transformers.

After comparing both individuals who died of cancer and those who died of other illnesses, it was found that cancer patients had approximately twice the levels of these chemicals in their bodies.  The table below details specific findings:

Pesticide Residue Levels in Persons Dying of Cancer
in Comparison to Those Dying of a Different Illness

  Pesticide levels below are measured in parts per million 
View same text column colors for easy comparison  

Cancer Patients
Fat Tissue
Chemical Residue Levels

Non-Cancer Patients
Fat Tissue
Chemical Residue Levels




0-24 25-49 50-74 >75 All 

















As can be seen, comparing any identical color column between those who died of cancer and those who died of another illness shows what researchers state are significantly higher levels of pesticide residues in the cancer death individuals. For example, the average DDE levels in the fat tissues of females dying of cancer for all ages is 5.026 ppm, whereas, the DDE levels in females dying of an illness other than cancer was only 2.138 ppm (see red columns). This same pattern can be seen for each age category which is certainly suggestive of at least being a contributing factor. It is very interesting to note the drastic increase in pesticide DDE levels of approximately 5 times above the normal non-cancer levels for the over age 75 category.

Specific Cancers - DDE and PCB Levels

The following table shows the amount of DDE and PCB's found in specific cancers When viewing the table below note how the pesticide DDE levels for the brain tumor glioblastoma category are 2.5 times higher than the non-cancer patients and nearly 4 times higher for the cancer  lymphosarcoma. 

Type of Cancer 

DDE Levels
Normal levels found in non-cancer patients =
2.5 ppm 

PCB Levels
Normal levels found in non-cancer patients =
5.2 ppm 

malignant lymphoma 4.3 ppm 15.7 ppm
glioblastoma 6.4 ppm 12.7 ppm
adenocarcinoma 3.4 ppm 15.9 ppm
breast cancer 5.4 ppm 10.9 ppm
lung  cancer 3.4 ppm 8.7 ppm
colon cancer 5.6 ppm 12.6 ppm
rectum cancer 11.2 ppm 9.8 ppm
lymphosarcoma 9.3 ppm 24.1 ppm

  In conclusion, the researchers stated,

"A significantly higher content of PCB's and DDE in the extracted lipids (fat) of subcutaneous abdominal fat from terminal patients with cancer, than that of presumably non cancerous patients, was found."

CHEM-TOX COMMENTS: There are two ways that the elevated chemical levels found in cancer patients may be contributing to their disease -

  1. by contributing to the damage of the genetic structure involved in controlling cell growth (since cancer is an "uncontrolled growth of cells," and
  2. by weakening the immune system of the individual, thereby allowing the cancer to grow faster than the body's ability to remove it via cancer fighting immune cells.

Keep in mind that these chemicals themselves may not be the direct cause of the cancer, as there may be other chemicals or circumstances that may have weakened the genetic structure. However, elevated levels of these chemicals could accelerate the onset or growth of any cancer by either of the above two mentioned mechanisms. Exposure to the DDT breakdown product DDE can come from a number of sources. One source is commercially grown food (for example - 19% of standard chemically-grown lettuce contains DDT according to Florida Department of Agriculture figures, as DDT is still used in much of foreign grown produce). Another exposure source could come from living near a citrus grove as the controversial pesticide Kelthane (which contains DDT as an unintentional by-product) is still "inexcusably" used today in orange and grapefruit groves.

Niels K. Jensen, M.D., Gunnar Nordberg, M.D.
Department of Community Health and Environmental Medicine, School of Medicine
Odense University, Denmark
Pathological Institute, Odense University
Umea University, Sweden


Diet Drinks Suspected of Increasing Brain Cancer Risk
Source: Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology, 55(11):1115-23, 1996

Increased Brain Cancer Rates are at least partially suspected to be caused by the diet drink ingredient ASPARTAME (also known as Nutra-Sweet).  Concern arises as new research shows diet drink sweeteners can cause mutagenic damage. Scientists at Washington University explained their findings in the  abstract summary below:

"In the past two decades brain tumor rates have risen in several industrialized countries, including the United States.  During this time, brain tumor data have been gathered by the National Cancer Institute from catchment areas representing 10% of the United States population.  In the present study, we analyzed these data from 1975 to 1992 and found that the brain tumor increases in the United States occurred in two distinct phases, an early modest increase that may primarily reflect improved diagnostic technology and a more recent sustained increase in the incidence and shift toward greater malignancy that must be explained by some other factor(s).  Compared to other environmental factors putatively linked to brain tumors, the artificial sweetener aspartame is a promising candidate to explain the recent increase in incidence and degree of malignancy of brain tumors.  Evidence potentially implicating aspartame includes an early animal study revealing an exceedingly high incidence of brain tumors in aspartame-fed rats compared to no brain tumors in concurrent controls, the recent finding that the aspartame molecule has mutagenic potential, and the  close temporal association (aspartame was introduced into US food and beverage markets several years prior to the sharp increase in brain tumor incidence and malignancy).  We conclude that there is need for reassessing the carcinogenic potential of aspartame.

Olney, JW; Farber, N.B.; Spitznagel, E.; Robins, L.N.
Department of Psychiatry, Washington University Medical School, St. Louis, MO


High Brain Cancer Rates found among Pesticide Applicators
SOURCE: International  Journal of Epidemiology, 22(4):579, 1993

Workers who applied pesticides were found to have nearly 3 times the normal rate of brain cancer. A total of 2,310 male licensed pesticide applicators were surveyed for cancer who handled pesticides between 1973-1979.  After studying the incidence of many types of cancer only brain cancer was found to be significantly higher than expected.  Of the 207 deaths from this group during the study period, there were 7 brain cancer deaths, while only 2.6 would be expected. Other cancers studied included cancer of the lung, stomach, large intestine, liver, pancreas, brain, kidney, bladder, prostate, leukemia and multiple myeloma. 

In conclusion the researchers stated:

"The only cancer site showing an SMR significantly higher than 100 (SMR means Standardized Mortality Ratio, whereas 100 is normal, 200 is twice the normal rate etc.) in our cohort was brain cancer.  The number of deaths expected on the basis of national mortality rates was 2.6, significantly lower than the observed.  The fact that most of the excess cases were concentrated in the 65 and over age group is also noteworthy.  Alberghini et al also found a higher mortality rate for brain cancer in an Italian  cohort of licensed pesticide users, especially in the age group over 654.   Corrao et al. in a study conducted in Piedmont, observed an increased risk of central nervous system cancer among pesticide users in the earliest birth cohort. Other studies also report an increase in cancers of the brain and nervous system among farmers and pesticide license holders.  Mussicco et al in a case-control study on 240 cases of brain glioma, hospitalized in Milan, stressed the relathion between this cancer site and the use of chemicals in agriculture, especially insecticides and fungicides.  The possible causative association between these of pesticides and brain cancer is considered plausible given the toxicological effect of these chemicals on the central nervous system."

Iren Giga-Talamanca, Irene Mearellli, Pasquale Valente, Susanna Bascherini
Department of Biological & Animal Research
University of Rome, Italy


Living Near Agriculture Growing Area Increases Brain Cancer Risk
American Journal of Public Health, 86(9):1289-1296

High brain cancer rates were found for people living near a cranberry agricultural growing area in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health compared the home locations of approximatley 1000 cancer patients to the home locations of 1000 patients dying of illnesses not related to cancer. Results showed that living within 2600 feet of the cranberry growing area resulted in twice the risk for all brain cancers and nearly a 7-fold increased risk for a type of brain cancer known as astrocytoma. (Astrocytomas are in the family of "glioma" cancers which begin in the glial tissue (glial tissue are the cells which hold the other brain cells together)..

Note: In children, astrocytomas often occur in the brain stem, the cerebrum, and the cerebellum.  A grade III astrocytoma is sometimes called an anaplastic astrocytoma.  A grade IV astrocytoma is usually called a gliablastoma multiforme.  Doctors often refer to brain tumors by grade - from low grade (grade I) to high grade (grade IV).  Cells from higher grade tumors are more abnormal looking under a microscope and usually grow faster and are more malignant than lower grade tumors.

Comments from Chem-Tox:  This study generates significant concerns as St. Lucie County and Indian River County have the highest pesticide use (as a percentage of total acreage) of all Florida Counties.  For details on the amounts and types of pesticides typically used in growing citrus please visit our Citrus Pesticide Use Figures web page.  There appears to be a disproportionate number of brain cancer victims in the Fort Pierce and Vero Beach area   who have lived in very close proximity to citrus groves.  This relationship appears not be coincidence and will be studied in more detail in the upcoming months.

Aschengrau-A; Ozonoff-D; Coogan-P; Vezina-R; Heeren-T; Ahang-Y
Boston University School of Public Heatlth, Massachusetts


Family Pesticide Use Suspected of Causing Child Cancers
Archives of Environmental Contamination Toxicoology, 24(1):87-92, 1993

The relationship between family pesticide use and childhood bain cancer was examined in this case-control study in 1990. After comparing brain cancer rates for families using pesticides and those not using pesticides it was found that the chemicals did increase the risk of getting cancer. Significant positive associations were observed for use of pesticides to control nuisance pests in the home, no-pest strips in the home, pesticides to control termites, Kwell shampoo, flea collars on pets, diazinon in the garden or orchard, and herbicides to conrol weeds in the yard.   Other risk factors identified were pesticide bombs in the home.

Davis JR, Brownson, RC, Garcia-R
Division of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Missouri
Department of Health, Columbia