Why is the number of golfers with cancer on the rise?
Here’s a special warning to anyone who frequents the putting green…
Experts are finding that golfers—and even non-golfers who simply live near courses—are experiencing alarming increases in cancers of the brain, large intestine, liver, lung and prostate.
In fact, a University of Iowa study found that just working as a golf superintendent significantly increased the risk of developing one of these health problems.
So what gives? Well, some researchers say the culprit is 2, 4-D—one of the herbicides landscapers use to keep courses looking green and beautiful.
A British research team at Rothamsted Experimental Station developed this weed killer during World War II. Their goal was to increase crop yields for a nation at war.
Since its commercial release in 1946, 2, 4-D has been extremely successful at controlling weeds in wheat, corn, rice, and other cereal grasses.
It’s also used to help tame the weeds alongside fences, highways and in hayfields and pastures.
But what you might not know is this. . .
2, 4-D was a compound in the notorious Agent Orange herbicide used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.
This and other compounds of Agent Orange were found to be contaminated with dioxins—identified as the cause of illnesses in people exposed to the herbicide1.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities. What’s more, 500,000 children were born with birth defects2. Okay, they’re former enemies and may be searching for ways to slam us. But the figures are shocking even if they’re half as high.
And according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange tend to report higher incidences of:
1) Acute/chronic leukemia
2) Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
3) Liver cancer
4) Prostate cancer, lung cancer,
5) Soft tissue sarcoma
6) Throat cancer
Because the Veteran’s Administration has found a direct link between these conditions and Agent Orange exposure—ALL except liver cancer are on the list of conditions eligible for compensation and treatment.3
Exposure may be linked to other problems besides cancer. One study found that occupational exposure to 2,4-D caused male reproductive problems, including dead and deformed sperm.4
In spite of this evidence, as late as August 8, 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a ruling insisting that current data does not support a link between human cancer and 2,4-D exposure.5
Even so—every now and then the folks at the EPA shuffle their feet and admit…
Well, maybe some pesticides are toxic…
To be fair, the EPA is not in total denial about the dangers of pesticides.
The agency was called upon to collaborate with the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in developing the Agricultural Health Study (AHS)—a document that actually names several pesticides as carcinogens.
The multi-agency study began in 1993 and followed nearly 90,000 participants from North Carolina and Iowa to determine the role of various agricultural and lifestyle exposures on health.
Study participants were farmers and their spouses, or workers who use pesticides on a regular basis.
According to AHS results published in the May 1, 2003, issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, 566 new prostate cancers developed among all pesticide applicators between 1993 and 1996. This compared to a prediction of only 495 based on incidence rates in the two states.
These numbers show the risk of developing prostate cancer was 14 percent greater for the pesticide applicators compared to the general population. This is not an overwhelming increase in risk, but, between you and me, I’m glad my job doesn’t involve handling pesticides.
Keep reading, because that 14 percent increase is just the tip of the iceberg.
Researchers found that cases of prostate cancer rose along with the frequency of exposure to a fumigant called methyl bromide. This gas is used nationwide to protect crops from pests in soil and to fumigate grain bins.
Scientists determined that cancer risks were 2 to 4 times higher in men exposed to methyl bromide than among men who were not exposed.
Now that’s enough to get my attention!
The EPA has also dropped its “safety charade” when it comes to the lawn pesticide mancozeb. They’ve classified this chemical as a “probable” cancer causing agent—because it’s known to cause cancer in animals.
The state of California has come right out and named the chemical as one known to cause cancer in humans.
The truth is, people in every state are exposed to toxic pesticides every single day.
Think of the number of grassy areas you cross that are treated with herbicides… the number of exterminator-treated public buildings and private homes you visit… and the amount of public water you use that may be contaminated by chemical runoff…
Does this mean you should resign yourself to a lifetime of chemical exposure that inevitably leads to cancer? NO WAY!
Seven simple steps to protect yourself from pesticides
Although pesticides permeate our environment—you can minimize your exposure to them with just a little effort.
The Lymphoma Foundation of America6 offers these suggestions:
1) Don’t spray herbicides on weeds in your yard. Either dig them up or leave them alone!
2) Minimize or eliminate indoor pesticides such as insect sprays and pest strips.
3) If your office is sprayed with pesticides, find out if the pest control folks can skip your area.
4) If your local water supply is contaminated by farm runoff—drink filtered or bottled water!
5) Buy organically grown fruits and vegetables from a vendor you trust.
6) Reduce consumption of animal fats, which contain more pesticide residue than the meat.
7) Don’t eat fish caught in ponds, lakes, or rivers contaminated with runoff water from nearby farms.
Will taking these steps ensure you won’t get lymphoma or another form of cancer? Well, nothing can ensure that. But minimizing your exposure to pesticides definitely won’t hurt you. In the long run—it could very well improve your overall health!