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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Berkeley Collaboration with Community Researchers Will Explore Pesticide Exposure to Teenage Girls in Agricultural Regions

Thanks to a grant from the California Breast Cancer Research Program, a university and a community researcher are collaborating to investigate how adolescents are exposed to potentially carcinogenic and hormone disrupting pesticides. Dr. Kim Harley, associate professor of maternal and child health at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, and Dr. Kimberly Parra from the Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, will use the Community Research Collaboration (CRC) award of $600,000 over three years to conduct a study with Latina teenagers in agricultural Salinas Valley.

Though epidemiologic studies have linked pesticide exposure with breast cancer, information is lacking about how much residents of agricultural communities are exposed. This is particularly true for adolescent girls, who are undergoing rapid reproductive development and breast cell proliferation and may be particularly sensitive to toxic exposures. This study will generate critical data on carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting pesticide exposure to Latina girls in an agricultural community.

“We know little about how pesticides impact breast cancer risk, but there is increasing concern that environmental chemicals play a role in breast cancer etiology,” says Dr. Harley. “We know that many pesticides appear to be carcinogenic or hormonally active — which can impact breast cancer risk — but we really don’t have a good sense of the extent to which young women who live near fields are exposed to these pesticides of concern.”

Approximately 100 14- and 15-year-old female participants will be asked to wear silicone bracelets that measure pesticide exposure through sensory technology, carry GPS loggers to track their movements, and allow dust collection in their homes to measure pesticide levels.

Unique to California, all agricultural pesticide use is reported to the state, including the active ingredient; the amount used; and the date, time, and location of each application. This study will identify the specific pesticides to which residents are being exposed and how those correlate with nearby agricultural use.

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