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Victorians exposed to pesticides

by AAP

MELBOURNE-- More than 45,000 women living in Victoria's north-east could have been exposed to breast cancer-causing pesticides, new research reveals.

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 said.

She said women could have unknowingly eaten food containing the pesticides.

"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 said.

"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.

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