GroundTruth Blog

Kristin Schafer's blog

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Last week, I harvested the first cherries from our backyard tree. They were yummy, gorgeous and fresh — so satisfying! Having planted the little tree just last spring and tended it since, it was also satisfying to know the sweet fruit is completely free of any chemicals that could harm me or my family.

If I'd picked up non-organic cherries from the store instead, they could be coated with any of the 42 pesticides USDA found in their most recent round of residue sampling. According to PAN's newly updated WhatsOnMyFood.org online tool, 20 of the chemicals found on cherries are suspected hormone disruptors, seven are harmful to the human nervous system and five have been linked to cancer. Yikes.

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As we head into the warm summer months, I often hear this question from neighbors, friends and fellow moms: how can I best avoid pesticides?

It's a season of outdoor romping, family travel, daycare, camps and play. In many parts of the country, it's also high season for pesticide spraying in agricultural fields, and in and near places where children are spending their days. So what to do?

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This is very powerful data. A new, first-of-its-kind report from California's Department of Health (DPH) shows that health-harming agricultural pesticides are being sprayed close to schools across the state.

Not just a few pesticides, either — or a few schools. More than 500,000 California children in hundreds of schools spend their days within 1/4 mile of pesticide applications. Of these, more than 100,000 (mostly Latino) children in 226 schools attend classrooms near fields with the heaviest use of dangerous chemicals. We have a problem.

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Each year we mark national Autism Awareness Month with an update on how many children officials say are now on the autism spectrum. We highlight the latest science linking prenatal pesticide exposure to increased risk. And we make an urgent pitch to shift from awareness to prevention.

Well, once again the numbers are up. CDC reports that 1 in 68 children are now on the autism spectrum, up from 1 in 88 in 2008 and 1 in 150 "way back" in 2002. And once again, new science links certain chemical exposures to derailed fetal brain development — with an ever clearer understanding of how the damage is done. The good news? When it comes to talking prevention, there's been real progress.

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Scientists issued yet another wake up call last week, adding more chemicals to the list of those known to harm our children's brains. These neurotoxicants — including the common pesticide chlorpyrifos — are linked to falling IQs, increased risk of ADHD and other developmental disorders.

Now here's the really extraordinary part of the story: the researchers conclude that it's time to "accelerate the translation of science into prevention." In other words, we need to do something about this problem. Now.