MELBOURNE-- More than 45,000 women living in Victoria's north-east
could have been exposed to breast cancer-causing pesticides, new
A study conducted by researchers at Melbourne's Monash University
found a possible link between the use of organochlorine pesticides,
used mainly in the production of tobacco crops, and breast cancer.
Monash University PhD student Narges Khanjani said up to 48,000
women in Victoria's tobacco growing region, the Ovens and Murray
Shire, could have been exposed to organochlorines.
"Because this is the only region in Victoria to grow tobacco,
the number of women possibly exposed is much higher than anywhere
else in the state," Dr Khanjani said.
The study was based on a comparison of 800 samples of contaminated
breast milk collected in the 1990s and breast cancer data.
It revealed the samples from the Ovens and Murray Shire were
the most highly contaminated and had the highest incidence of
breast cancer compared with any other area in Victoria, Dr Khanjani
She said women could have unknowingly eaten food containing the
"Although women traditionally don't work in the fields,
they have been exposed to the chemicals which have contaminated
the food chain and have been unknowingly consumed in produce such
as meat, milk and eggs," she said.
Most organochlorines were phased out around a decade ago, but
some, such as Atrazine and Triazine were still used, Dr Khanjani
"Chemicals like DDT have a half life of about 10 years so
we would expect to see a reduction in the levels of exposure in
the north-east over time and young people won't have the same
degree of exposure to these organochlorines," she said.
Dr Khanjani said while some overseas studies backed up her finding
that there was a link between the pesticides and breast cancer,
others did not.
No research had been done in Australia on the link between the
chemicals and the disease, she said.