Huh. Who would’ve guessed that keeping children cocooned in ultra-clean homes might actually do more harm than good?

Apparently, children exposed to insecticides or pesticides –the substances that are meant to control pests and weeds– at home may have an increased risk of developing blood cancers like leukaemia or lymphoma.

A major analysis done since the 1990s by Britain’s leading leukaemia expert has concluded a deadly chain of events is set in motion when vulnerable children are not exposed to enough bugs to prime their immune system at an early age.

In other words, without sufficient immunity, if susceptible youngsters catch even a relatively harmless virus like flu, the immune system tend to malfunction and create far more infection-fighting white blood cells than needed, causing leukaemia.

Children can be exposed to pesticides by breathing them in or eating them, as chemical residues linger on surfaces where children play or spend time, and they may get them on their hands and put their hands in their mouths. In general, children younger than age 12 appear to be most vulnerable to the possible cancer-causing effects of pesticides.

The researchers concluded that children who had been exposed to insecticides indoors were 47% more likely to have leukaemia and 43% more likely to have lymphoma. Although leukaemia and lymphoma are rare, they are among the common types of childhood cancers.