Children & Pesticides

Children & Pesticides

When it comes to pesticides, children are among the most vulnerable. Pound for pound, they drink 2.5 times more water, eat 3-4 times more food, and breathe 2 times more air. They therefore absorb a higher concentration of pesticides than adults.

Infants and children also face unique exposure because of how they interact with the world: they crawl on the ground and put things in their mouths — including their hands. They also face exposure during critical windows in the womb and via breast milk.

Developing Brains & Bodies

child drawingSince they are growing so quickly, infants and young children are more susceptible to the effects of pesticide exposure than adults. Their developing brains and bodies are in the midst of complex and fragile developmental processes that regulate tissue growth and organ development — and these developmental processes can be irreversibly derailed by pesticide exposure.
Drawings by preschoolers exposed to pesticides (Valley) compared to those by preschoolers not exposed (Foothills). See “Developmental Delay” below.

Research indicates that children exposed to pesticides either in utero, or during other critical periods face significant health risks including higher incidence of:

  • Birth defects
  • Neurodevelopmental delays & cognitive impairment
  • Childhood brain cancers
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)
  • Endocrine disruption

Many of the worst pesticides, known as “persistent organic pollutants,” or POPs, contaminate our water and soil for years. They move on the wind and in streams, rivers and oceans and concentrate as they move up the food chain. Other pesticides are so widely and heavily used that they contamine our food and water supplies (chlorpyrifos and atrazine are good examples).

Health Effects: The State of the Science

So, while farmer and farmworker’s children bear some of the highest risks, pesticides contaminate the environment and permeate the food supply such that even kids in city cafeterias face daily exposure.

Get the latest on the state of the science, including reports on Brain Development, Autism, and ADHD.

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