PAN icon
Picture of Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Report: Pesticides and other contaminants harm children, costing California billions

For Immediate Release: June 16, 2015

Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network, 916-216-1082,
Anne Katten, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation 916-446-1765,

Oakland, CA – According to a new report released today by the Public Health Institute, pesticides are one of the major environmental factors that contribute to cancer and neurodevelopmental harm in children and cost the state billions of dollars. The report takes on added significance as California officials consider new comprehensive restrictions on pesticides used near schools.

“This report underscores the urgent need to get serious about ending use of neurotoxic and cancer-causing pesticides in California and to invest in programs to help farmers transition to safer pest control methods,” said Anne Katten, MPH, pesticide and work safety specialist at California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

The report “Costs of Environmental Health Conditions in California Children” was released by the Public Health Institute and the California Environmental Health Tracking Program, and is the first state level review of preventable environmental hazards which contribute to childhood cancer, neurobehavioral disorders, asthma and lead exposure in California, which the report concluded costs California $254 million every year and $10-13 billion over the lifetime of children born every year.

The report estimates that 15 percent of childhood cancer cases could be prevented by substantially reducing children and expectant parents’ exposure to environmental hazards, including radiation, pesticides and solvent exposures, saving $19 million each year and $33 million over the lifetime of children born each year.  

According to a report released last year by the California Department of Public Health, hazardous and volatile pesticides linked to cancer and neurodevelopmental impacts were found in close proximity to over 500,000 California schoolchildren.

Following that report’s release, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation concluded a series of workshops last week to collect input on developing  new protections for schoolchildren and better information for teachers, staff, students and families. Four of the top five pesticides used in close proximity to California schools are linked to cancer and all are highly volatile and gaseous. Citing this report, as well as regular problems documented on-the-ground, a diverse coalition of parents, teachers, environmental and farmworker advocates and health professionals have pressed for better protections.

“The critical report illustrates the health and economic benefits of implementing comprehensive no-spray buffer zones around schools and eliminating drift-prone methods of pesticides application like aerial applications and air blasters,” said Sarah Aird, co-director of Californians for Pesticide Reform.

For neurobehavioral disorders, including autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and intellectual disability, the report estimates that 10% of cases could be prevented by eliminating exposure to air pollutants, pesticides, chemicals in home products, lead, and other metals. This would save $27 million each year and $2.3 billion over the lifetime of all children born each year.

In particular, a growing number of studies by the University of California – Berkeley and University of California – Davis, among others, show that prenatal and early childhood exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos is linked to neurobehavioral disorders. Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used pesticides near California schools and is also drift-prone. Children’s health advocates have pressed state officials to complete their evaluation of the chemical after more than two decades of review, and adopt necessary protections.

As advocates have pressed for better protections for children, they’ve also encouraged state officials to better invest in sustainable and organic agriculture or “ag innovation zones” near California children.

“Brain-harming pesticides threaten the potential of future generations of children,” said Margaret Reeves, PhD, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “Governor Brown and state leaders should invest in cutting-edge and green pest management that ensures the future prosperity of California’s farmers. This report makes clear the cost of inaction.”

For more information about how pesticides have contributed childhood diseases see PAN’s report, “A Generation in Jeopardy: How Pesticides Are Undermining Our Children’s Health and Intelligence.”


Californians for Pesticide Reform is a diverse, statewide coalition of over 185 member groups working to strengthen pesticide policies in California to protect public health and the environment. Member groups include public and children’s health advocates, clean air and water groups, health practitioners, environmental justice groups, labor, education, farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates from across the state.

Picture of Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network is dedicated to advancing alternatives to pesticides worldwide. Follow @pesticideaction

Share this post