Children's health

Pesticide Action Network's picture

The "obesity epidemic" is constantly in the news. This year's CDC figures show that 1 in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum. Childhood cancers and neurodevelopmental delays are on the rise.

Scientific studies show that many of these health conditions can be linked to exposures to environmental contaminants such as pesticides, and new research is finding that exposures occurring as far back as three generations can cause adverse health conditions today.

Kristin Schafer's picture

Part of my job here at PAN is keeping track of the latest research about how pesticides are harming children’s health. This has kept me too busy of late, as studies seem to be coming fast and furious linking pesticides with childhood asthma, autism, birth defects, cancer and more.

One recent study gave me serious pause. We already understand that some chemicals can change how our genes function; now researchers know that this damage can be passed from one generation to the next. I’m no scientist, but I understand enough to know that compromising the DNA of future generations is not a good idea.

Pesticide Action Network's picture

When a pregnant woman is exposed to low levels of a commonly used pesticide, the architecture of her developing infant's brain may be irreversibly damaged. This according to researchers who for the first time used MRI testing to see structural evidence of harm from exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos during fetal development.

Researchers report that the changes in brain structure they observed were consistent with the learning and developmental effects (including reduced IQs) that have been linked to chlorpyrifos. The effects were observed at exposure levels well below those considered harmful by EPA.

Kristin Schafer's picture

If we set our minds to it, we can turn back the rising tide of autism. But it will take the courage to embrace the following common-sense goal, in both policy and practice: Expecting parents and young children should not take in chemical contaminants that are known to harm developing minds.

This week, scientists released a list of exactly which contaminants we're talking about. The top 10 chemicals contributing to autism and learning disabilities include commonly used pesticides, as well as chemicals found in many consumer products. The scientists tell us the list is likely to grow. But for now, it's time to act on what we know.

Kristin Schafer's picture

Hats off to this mother of three who got fed up and took charge. Thirteen years ago, Sofía Gatica's newborn died of kidney failure after being exposed to pesticides in the womb. After the despair came anger, then a fierce determination to protect the children in her community and beyond.

Today, she's one of six grassroots leaders from around the world receiving the Goldman Environmental Prize, in recognition of her courageous — and successful — efforts.