Protecting our children's health
New Healthy Kids! toolkit
Updated - Use our 2-page "Conversation Kickstarter" fact sheet to start a conversation in your community about protecting kids from pesticide harms.
Today’s children are sicker than children were two generations ago.
From learning disabilities and autism to childhood cancers and more, a startling number of diseases and disorders are on the rise. And as our recent report A Generation in Jeopardy highlights, the science leaves little room for doubt: pesticides and other toxic chemicals are contributing to our kids getting sick, and these chemicals can have cascading effects that last for generations.
The good news is, this is a problem we can do something about. From kitchen tables to state capitals, from school districts to family farms, people are finding ways to better protect children's health. It's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. See our Top 10 list below to find out how you can help protect kids from pesticides. Today.
Children are in harm's way
Pediatricians have understood for decades that children interact with their environment much differently than adults. Infants and children have speedier metabolic rates, which means they take in more water, food and air. Their bodies are also less able to detoxify and expel harmful chemicals.
In short, a child is absorbing a higher load of pesticides at a time when his or her body is least equipped to protect itself.
Here are just some of the many pathways of exposure putting our children in harm's way:
In the womb: When a fetus is exposed to certain chemicals at particular times — as the architecture of the brain is under construction, or the reproductive organs are taking shape — the normal process of development can be derailed, sometimes with irreversible effects.
Home & daycare: If pesticides are used in homes, lawns or gardens where an infant or toddler is exploring the world, exposure is a near certainty. And eating foods coated with pesticides — even when residues are scant — has been linked to lower IQs and neurodevelopmental delays.
Schools & playgrounds: Use of toxic chemicals to control pests in schools and on playing fields make the school environment less safe for growing bodies and developing minds. Students in rural areas face additional risk, as pesticides may drift onto school grounds and seep into water supplies from nearby fields.
Way back in 1993, scientists at the National Research Council pointed to a fundamental maxim of pediatric medicine — that children are not, in fact, “little adults” — to make the urgent case that children's small and growing bodies need special protection from pesticide exposure.
Twenty years later, childhood diseases linked to pesticides are still climbing, and our children continue to be at risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics spoke out in 2012, urging policymakers to do more now to protect children from pesticides and promote safer pest control alternatives.
Solutions within reach
Parents can make immediate changes in how they control pests at home and what foods they feed their children, and this will help.
But truly protecting our children requires getting harmful pesticides off our food and out of the places children live, learn and play — which will take major shifts in our national approach to both pests and pesticides. This kind of change doesn’t come easy.
Yet we’re confident that together, we can do it. Here are the Top 10 things we recommend — right now — to get us started.
- Choose kid-safe foods. Whenever possible, shop for fruits and veggies free of pesticides that harm children’s health. More and more families across the country are choosing pesticide-free or organic produce, joining local CSAs, shopping at farmers’ markets or planting their own backyard gardens!
- Keep homes kid-safe. Use safer, alternative methods to control pests in homes, on your pets, and on your lawns and gardens.
At school & daycare
- Create safer child care. Daycare centers should be free of pesticides known to harm children. Ask your daycare facility about the pesticides they use, and urge them to join the Eco-Healthy Child Care program run by our partners at the Children's Environmental Health Network.
- Make schools pesticide-free, inside & out. Pesticides that harm children — and especially those known to harm developing minds — have no place in our schools. Learn what communities across the country are doing to create school environments free of neurotoxic pesticides.
- Link local farms to school plates. Urge your school district to link with a pesticide-free farm-to-school program to protect children from pesticide residues and build the family farm economy.
In your community
- Spread the word about pesticides & health. Follow and share the science on pesticides and kids health with friends, family, parent-teacher groups and neighbors. Download our 2-page Conversation Kickstarter to help get the discussion going. Note: If you'd like printed copies of A Generation in Jeopardy to share, please contact us at healthykids(at)panna.org.
- Make public places safe for kids. Toddlers and young children spend hours and hours at parks and playgrounds. Making these places pesticide-free goes a long way toward protecting their health. In rural areas, buffer zones can protect parks, schools and neighborhoods from drifting pesticides.
Healthier food & farming
- Support green & healthy farming. Our policies should better support farmers who grow healthy, pest-free crops without relying on pesticides that can harm children. Let's make financial help and on-farm technical support for these growers a national priority.
- Press policymakers to put children’s health first. Overall, current rules protect the interests of the pesticide corporations much better than they protect our children. Pesticides stay on the market long after science shows they harm children’s health, and new pesticides are approved that may increase the risk. Find out how you can help press for policies that put children’s health first.
- Vote for kids’ health. From local to state to national elections, hold politicians accountable for supporting safe and healthy food and farming, and putting kids’ health before pesticide industry profits.
Together, we can get this job done. We invite you to join the PAN family as we work toward these urgent and important goals. We'll keep you informed, plug you into smart actions and help you spread the word. Find us on Facebook and Twitter, too!