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Brain Tumour

Firewood may fuel childhood brain tumour

A common enough implement for cooking particularly in rural India and in urban slums, choolas could cause children to be born with brain tumour. Latest research shows that compounds like benzene and other substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons released by firewood are potentially carcinogenic and could cause brain tumour among fetuses.

“Exposure to volatile organic compounds have been shown to be carcinogenic to humans,” says Prof Bower, a neuroscientist in Sydney based on an Australia-wide case-control study, which found that pregnant women who were exposed to a closed wood heater before their child’s birth may have increased the risk of their offspring developing brain tumours.

At the Telethon Kids Institute a team of researchers led Prof Bower reasoned that increased exposure to activities like frequent refueling of ones car or being exposed to firewood fumes is associated with an increased risk of childhood brain tumours (CBT).

The results were most conclusive among men who refueled at least once a week. But surprisingly there was no such association among women in the 12 months before or during pregnancy. “The use of closed wood heaters before the child’s birth was also associated with an increased risk.”

“Refueling and wood heater use both potentially involve exposure to volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, and other substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which have been shown to be carcinogenic to humans,” Prof Bower says.

For their study the scientists enrolled children with brain tumours under 15 years of age at paediatric oncology centres around Australia and probed the genetic, dietary and environmental risk factors of CBT between 2005 and 2010. The analysis of parent responses to questionnaire pertaining specifically to refueling and use of wood heaters the responses in key periods relative to the child’s birth showed that there was indeed an association, They examined data for 306 case and 950 control families.

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