Children face unique hazards from pesticide and other toxic chemical exposures. They take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults in the food they eat the air they breathe, and the care products applied and absorbed through their skin Their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to all toxic compounds. The U.S. EPA, National Academy of Sciences, and American Public Health Association, have all voiced concerns about the danger that pesticides pose to children. The body of evidence in the scientific literature increasingly shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels and can continue to affect health throughout the life cycle. Several pesticides, including organophosphates, are also known to cause or exacerbate asthma symptoms and can also act as hormonal disruptors, associated with both male and female reproductive problems.
Pesticide Exposure during Pregnancy
Pregnant women exposed to household pesticides may increase the risk of their children developing leukemia, according to a recent study conducted in France. These findings add more weight to the role that pesticides play in childhood blood cancers and may shed light on the actual causes of the disease. In this study, parents of leukemia patients were more likely to have used pesticides and
insecticides either at home or in the workplace. “Exposure to these chemicals increase risk for blood cancers, particularly if children are exposed in the womb”, the authors conclude and caution.
“The consistency of the findings with those of previous studies raises the question of the advisability of preventing pesticide exposures and use by pregnant women.” The associations between pesticide use during pregnancy and childhood leukemia are strong enough that limiting or eliminating their use during pregnancy is advisable, according to researchers and health advocates.
In addition, there is also a growing body of research that has identified associations between developmental and neurological problems and exposure during pregnancy to a growing number of household chemicals and cleaning products. This list includes, but is not limited to, paints, glues and solvents, cigarette smoke and pesticides. The broad class of compounds that may increase risk indicates that there may be common features associated with developmental cell signaling that are altered by often multiple exposures to these compounds. Most importantly, the research confirms that children and babies in particular, with their development and growth of organs and tissues, are especially vulnerable to chemicals in the environment.
Practicing the Precautionary Principle Recommended
The precautionary principle aims to provide guidance for protecting public health and the environment in the face of uncertain risks. “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically”.
Web sites for more information on pesticides in the environment and safer choices: