PANUPS: Stop EPA From Testing Pesticides on Children


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Stop EPA From Testing Pesticides on Children
December 1, 2004

Children’s advocates were stunned in early November as the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new study of pesticide impacts on children that planned to offer money and camcorders to families for exposing their infants and toddlers to pesticides. After a chorus of opposition, EPA postponed, but didn’t cancel the industry funded Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS) in Duval County, Florida. Sign our petition urging EPA to cancel the study, return the money, and give parents the facts about the serious health risks that pesticides pose to children.

The testing of pesticides on infants and children has clear ethical implications. Scientific evidence clearly suggests that children in homes where home and garden pesticides are used are more likely to develop serious diseases, including asthma and childhood cancers. A recent study reports children with early persistent asthma were 10 times more likely to have been exposed to herbicides and insecticides in their first year. Children under five who live in homes where pesticides are applied may face a risk of childhood leukemia 11 times greater than those who live where no pesticides are applied.Home use of insecticide foggers has been associated with a risk of brain tumors in children that is more than 10 times higher.

As more organophosphorus (OP) insecticides are being replaced with pyrethroids—many of which are endocrine disrupting compounds—new adverse effects are likely to surface. Exposure to neurotoxic pesticides, including OPs and pyrethroids, is suspected as a possible cause of learning disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder, conditions that have reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. While the epidemiological data are not in yet, animal models suggest there is reason for concern.

The CHEERS project was criticized for its offers of cash rewards and camcorders to families that regularly spray pesticides in their home. Although the website for the study promises, “EPA will not ask parents to apply pesticides in their home to be a part of this study” the offering of prizes may encourage families unaccustomed to using pesticides in the home to change their habits to become eligible. The clinics and hospitals selected as recruitment sites in Duval County predominantly serve low-income communities and serve a greater proportion of African Americans than the rest of the county, thus the children from low income communities of color are likely to bear the greatest risks in this EPA-led study.

EPA plans to accept $2.1 million from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to fund this ethically questionable study. Instead of allowing the pesticide industry to direct its research priorities, the agency should be doing all it can to prevent children’s exposure to toxic pesticides. EPA should be informing parents of the risks of home pesticide use and promoting alternatives. Instead it has chosen collaboration with the industry that produces these chemicals to see how much exposure is “acceptable.”

Sign our petition asking EPA to firmly and permanently back away from the CHEERS study, and begin speaking the truth to parents about pesticide risks. See the petition at,

Sources: EPA CHEERS website:; Buckley, J.D., L.L. Robinson, R. Swotinsky, et al. 1989, Occupational exposures of parents of children with acute nonlymphocytic leukemia: A report from the Children’s Cancer Study Group, Cancer Research 49: 4030–37; Lowengart, R.A., J.M. Peters, C. Cicioni, et al. 1987. Childhood leukemia and parents’ occupational and home exposures, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 79(1): 39-46; Pogoda, J.M. and S. Preston-Martin. 1997. Household pesticides and risk of pediatric brain tumors, Environmental Health Perspectives, 105(11): 1214–20.

Contact: PANNA.

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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