When a child is diagnosed with cancer, parents want to find the cause. It’s not uncommon to hear questions such as, “Does Tupperware cause cancer?” or, “Did secondhand smoke give my child leukemia?” It’s only natural for parents to want to know if there’s anything they could have done to prevent it.
As I tell parents, please don’t beat yourself up. Usually, the cause for childhood cancer is unknown. And while that may be a relief for some parents—they don’t feel the need to blame themselves—it can also leave them with questions.
While the majority of the time we don’t know exactly what causes childhood cancer, we do know about toxins that may or may not contribute to it:
1. Does Tupperware Cause Cancer?—Everyday Chemicals
When it comes to chemicals causing cancer, I’ve heard everything—Play-Doh, red food dye, the plastic in Tupperware. The truth is, none of these chemicals have a scientifically proven link to cancer in people.
Some of the theories are based in truth. For example, plastic food containers do contain a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been shown to cause cancer in studies of animals such as rats and mice. However, there is not proof of the role of BPA in cancer in humans.
According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), BPA from a container is generally leaked into the food only if the container is being microwaved. And even then, it’s such a small amount that it is considered safe, says the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
2. The Skinny On Secondhand Smoke
Yes, it’s true that secondhand smoke causes cancer. In fact, living with a smoker increases a non-smoker’s risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30%, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
However, it’s rare to find this happen in kids. Why? Damage from secondhand smoke takes a long time to build up. By the time it’s bad enough to be cancerous, most people are past childhood.
Older teenagers who have been exposed to heavy smoke their whole lives may be at risk, but usually, lung cancer from secondhand smoke enters the scene closer to adulthood.
That doesn’t mean that parents have a free pass to smoke around their kids. The American Pregnancy Association warns that children who are exposed to secondhand smoke may have respiratory problems, infections, and weakened immune systems. And while it doesn’t usually cause cancer in childhood, it can contribute to lung cancer once a child grows up.
3. Cancer And Calls
Kids seem to be addicted to cell phones, which can drive a parent nuts. But even though a cell phone can cause a child to ignore his parents, or stay up past his bedtime playing games, it won’t give him cancer.
The myth stems from the fact that cell phones give off radiation. However, there are two types of radiation—ionizing and non-ionizing. Only the ionizing type causes cancer, and cell phones give off the non-ionizing type. Same goes for cell phone bases and wifi—anything that goes into making your kid’s favorite gadget function.
You might have a laundry list of reasons for not buying your kid a cell phone—but take cancer off the list.
4. The Power Of Power Lines
There has been speculation that living close to power lines increases a child’s risk of cancer. This idea may have stemmed from a 1979 study linking power lines to leukemia, but recent studies don’t necessarily come to the same conclusion, says the National Cancer Institute.
According to the NCI, studies from recent years show a possible association between the two—but have also found that the risk is very low. A child would have to be exposed to a very high amount of radiation from power lines to be at risk for developing cancer, and few kids receive that much exposure.
5. Pesty Pesticides
Another common thought is that pesticides can cause cancer. The science is still out on this.
Heavy exposure to indoor pesticides, like indoor bug sprays, may increase the risk of leukemia, according to a September 2015 study in the AAP’s journal. However, the study is small, and other studies have shown mixed results.
If you have any questions about the products you’re using, speak with your child’s pediatrician.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.