Kristin Schafer's blog | Pesticide Action Network
Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Kristin Schafer's blog

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California schoolkids in harm's way

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.

Kristin Schafer
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We're autism aware. Now let's talk prevention.

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.

Kristin Schafer
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Give brains a chance, say scientists

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.

Kristin Schafer
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On pesticides, soap & common sense

Scan the ingredient list of many "antibacterial" soaps and body washes, and you'll find triclosan. This pesticide — yes, I said pesticide — is so widely used that it's now found in most of our bodies. And after decades of thinking about it, FDA is finally saying "enough."

It turns out some significant risks are linked to triclosan, including altering how hormones work in our bodies, undermining our immune systems and making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Oh, and according to FDA experts, it doesn't seem to get hands or bodies any cleaner than good old soap and water.

Kristin Schafer
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Protecting kids around the world

Today, our PAN partners in Asia are releasing an in-depth, global study on children and pesticides. As a mom, I'm both deeply thankful for this report and profoundly frustrated that it needs to be written at all.

Dr. Meriel Watts reviewed hundreds of scientific studies from around the world, and found that children across the globe face serious — and growing — health harms from exposure to pesticides. Her report then outlines clear, doable steps to making real change.

Kristin Schafer
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Pesticides & pregnancy don't mix. Really.

When you're pregnant, there's a lot to think about. If it's your first, you're vaguely aware that your life is about to change forever. In the meantime, you worry. Am I eating right? Taking the right vitamins? And just what do I need to know about pesticides and other harmful chemicals during pregnancy?

The critical importance of this last question just got an official nod from the largest national organization of OB/GYNs. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a groundbreaking report last month recommending that every mother-to-be receive advice in prenatal visits on how to avoid chemicals that can harm fetal development — and the future health of her child. This is a very good, very powerful idea.

Kristin Schafer
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Connect the dots, EPA

EPA is doing a better job protecting children's health, according to a new government report. This is very welcome news indeed — kudos to EPA for recognizing that when it comes to environmental harms, kids cannot be treated like little adults.

The bad news? The report flagged one arena where kids' health protection is lagging: pesticide decisionmaking. Yikes. As we know from our recent A Generation in Jeopardy report, pesticide exposure is a biggy when it comes to childhood health harms.

Kristin Schafer
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Protect kids from pesticide drift. Now.

Seven years. Scientists tell us that's the window in the first years of life when children are most vulnerable to pesticide harms. That's also exactly how long EPA has — so far — delayed putting rules in place to protect kids from pesticides that drift from agricultural fields.

Bottom line? While regulators think about what to do, an entire generation of rural kids has experienced increased risk of harms that can last a lifetime. Health risks from early life pesticide exposure are very real, and can be serious. Science points to falling IQs, ADHD, learning disabilities, birth defects and, in some cases, cancer. That's why this week, we're taking EPA to court for being too darn slow.

Kristin Schafer

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