Research to determine whether long term use of organophosphate insecticides and other pesticides leads to an increased risk of cancer

Researchers from Monash University, Australia will study the long-term health effects of pesticide use focusing on fruit growers in the Goulburn Valley.

The study is believed to be one of the first of its kind in Australia.

The research team, led by Associate Professor Malcolm Sim, will review the files of around 10,000 fruit growers in Victoria and New South Wales to determine whether long term use of organophosphate insecticides and other pesticides leads to an increased risk of cancer.

Work is expected to start this month with findings expected by the end of 2005.

Dr Sim said there has been concern about the prolonged use of insecticides by fruit growers, particularly those using Parathion and Malathion.

"The prime purpose of these chemicals is to kill insects so we want to find out if they also have harmful effects on workers who use them," he said.

Dr Sim and his colleagues will use survey data collected by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries in the 1970s and 80s and investigate subsequent cancer rates in the group of workers surveyed.

"The rate of cancer in the survey group, made up mostly of males, will be compared to that of the wider population," Dr Sim said.

"Obviously if we find a problem and those insecticides are still being used in the community we need to have a look at alternative chemicals and what protective measures farmers need to take."

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