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Air Home Contamination - LEUKEMIA - and the Pesticide Chlordane
by Dr. Wayne Sinclair
Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Vero Beach, Florida

Leukemia is being linked to home contamination with the pesticide chlordane. Chlordane, a banned termite pesticide, is still being found in the air 75% of homes built before April of 1988 and was reported as a risk factor for leukemia by researchers at the Department of Occupational Medicine, Finland. Of even more concern, is the fact that research by the U.S. Air Force and other agencies are finding 5-7% of pre-1988 homes contain levels of chlordane over the maximum allowable "safe" level of 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air set by the National Academy of Sciences. As cancers such as leukemia and neuroblastoma have been on the rise since chemical pesticides have been in use, it is certainly worthwhile to investigate environmental circumstances suspected of causing either of these these cancers that often afflict children. This information also gives rise to the importance of having the air of homes tested in which children have developed leukemia, neuroblastoma or aplastic anemia.

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Journal Report #1 Linking Leukemia with Home Chlordane Exposure
Journal Report #2 Linking Leukemia with Home Chlordane Exposure
Leukemia & Aplastic Anemia Cases after Chlordane Exposure
How to test a home for chlordane
Background information on the use of chlordane in homes
  Relation of Aplastic Anemia to Leukemia
  Studies of Occupational Exposure to Chlordane
  Other health problems associated with chlordane
  Review of the literature regarding cases of leukemia and aplastic anemia

Report No. 1

The following abstract quote is from the article entitled "Blood Dyscrasias and Childhood Tumors and Exposure to Chlordane and Heptachlor," by Peter F. Infante, D.D.S., Dr. P.H., Samuel S Epstein, M.D., and William A. Newton, Jr., M.D. and was reported in the journal Scandinavian Journal of Work & Environmental Health, 4:137-150, 1978.

ABSTRACT: In the United States, chlordane and heptachlor are commonly used in pesticide formulations for agricultural purposes and for termite eradication in the home. Pathological conditions possibly associated with prior exposure to such formulations are presented in this report. Five recently diagnosed cases of neuroblastoma associated with chlordane exposure during prenatal and postnatal development have been identified. Three cases of aplastic anemia and three cases of acute leukemia are also reported in association with chlordane formulations. The cases suggesting association between chlordane exposure and neuroblastoma are of interest in view of recent data on the carcinogenicity and mutagenicity of chlordane and heptachlor and in view of data on environmental distributions and body burdens. The cases of aplastic anemia and leukemia are of interest in view of previous literature reports on associations between chlordane and similar chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides and blood dyscrasias, and in view of reports indicating that some subjects with aplastic anemia convert to leukemia. As previous studies are too limited to allow the development of valid inferences regarding the neoplastic risk of chlordane, there is need for formal epidemiologic study to evaluate health risks associated with chlordane through home exposure and through occupational exposure for termite exterminators, lawn care operators, and for workers in the agricultural setting.


Report No. 2

The following abstract quote is from the journal article entitled, "Leukemias and Blood Dyscrasias Following Exposure to Chlordane and Heptachlor," by Samuel Epstein and David Ozonoff, School of Public Health, University of Illinois Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois; Environmental Health Section, Boston University School of Public Health, and was reported in the journal Teratogenesis, Carcinogenesis, and Mutagenesis 7:527-540, 1987.

ABSTRACT: We present 25 new cases of blood dyscrasias (blood abnormalities) including leukemias, production defects, and thrombocytopenic purpura, generally following home termite treatment with the chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides chlordane and heptachlor (C/H). These newly reported cases are consistent with 34 previously published case reports associating blood dyscrasias with C/H exposure. Additionally, the newly reported leukemias are consistent with epidemiologic evidence of excess risk of leukemia and other cancers in C/H-exposed populations and with the carcinogenic action of C/H in animals. The importance of case reports in warning of the association of blood dyscrasias to C/H exposure is emphasized. Until the voluntary halt in production in July 1987, millions of homes in the United States were treated with chlordane and heptachlor for termites even though their agriculturaly uses were phased out in 1978, largely on the grounds of "imminent hazard" because of carcinogenicity. In view of the recognized myelotoxicity, carcinogenicity, and other chronic toxic effects of these pesticides, a national program for monitoring all homes treated is urgently needed to detect persistent contamination.

Leukemia Case Histories

CASE #1 - 41 Year Old Male Develops Leukemia
SOURCE: Teratogenesis, Carcinogenesis, and Mutagenesis, 7:530,1987

A 41 year old white male (initials C.L.) was admitted for diagnostic work-up to a community hospital in November 1980 by his family physician after an office visit indicated mild anemia and thrombocytopenia. He had a 5-month history of easy bruising and slow wound healing, a 3 month history of easy fatiguability, and a 6-week history of sore throat. Just prior to admission he developed severe apthous ulcers. The patient had been rejected as a blood donor in July 1980 because of "low hemoglobin." He informed his physician that in July he had sprayed his house with chlordane. No history of other toxic exposures was then elicited. He worked as a diesel truck driver and had a 25 pack-year smoking history. Prior to his presenting illness he had been in good health. On admission his hemoglobin was 9 gm%; platelets, 40,000/mm3, and WBC, 8,100 mm3 with 69% lymphocytes and 10% monocytes. Megakaryocytes were average in frequency but showed no significant platelet maturation. The pathologist's impression was of a reactive phase following toxic depression, "probably due to pronounced exposure to chlordane in July 1980." The patient was discharged to a university medical center for further therapy with a diagnosis of "bone marrow depression from chlordane. . . most likely currently in a pre-leukemic state."

A bone marrow aspirate 2 weeks later at the referral hospital was hypercellular, with the erythroid series decreased, an increase in myeloid series with a left shift (57% myeloblasts, 11% progranulocytes), and a marked decrease of megakaryocytes. His disease was diagnosed as acute myelocytic leukemia, later specified as acute monomyelocytic leukemia on the basis of special studies. He was treated with chemotherapy and achieved remission, which has lasted to the resent (April 1987).

The only other pesticide exposure the patient remembered was occasional malathion use in his garden. A more detailed history revealed that in 1975, 5 years before the diagnosis of leukemia, he had bought a 1-gallon bottle of chlordane concentrate in a hardware store and used approximately half of it to treat a utility room, a crawl space, and the perimeter of his house for termites. At that time he used many gallons of a solution prepared by mixing one tablespoon of chlordane with a gallon of water in a pump sprayers. This work extended over several days. He used no protective clothing or mask, but showered after each application, In July 1980, he repeated spraying his garage and outside the house, using a large portion of the remaining half gallon.