Pesticides & Kids – why you should be concerned
We are adding more chemicals in one form or another to our
soil, food, water and homes. Is this a healthy trend?
By Karen R. Forbes Posted
Jan 28, 2009
of us have memories of rolling on the lawn as a child while making
necklaces by chaining dandelions together. Over the years the grass
around our houses has taken on a more ominous appearance and dandelions
are scarce. We are adding more chemicals in one form or another to our
soil, food, water and homes. Is this a healthy trend? We need to ask
about the possible negative health affects we are risking just to be
germ, bug and weed-free. There is an overwhelming amount of research
surfacing indicating that living in a chemical world is taking its toll
and it is the children, the chronically ill and the elderly that are
most at risk.
A National Cancer Institute study found children’s risk of developing
childhood leukemia increased six fold among those living where pesticides
were used in the home and garden. In addition, researchers claim they
can identify most of the pesticides used in the home and immediate
neighborhood by testing the residues in the carpet and underlay. When we
consider that children spend more time than adults going barefoot,
rolling on lawns, making mud pies and eating dirt, it makes more sense to
avoid using chemical lawn and garden products in our own yards as well
as encouraging our neighbors to do the same. We can avoid tracking in
soil contaminants by having everyone remove their shoes at the door.
Using natural methods to build up the health of our lawn and garden
increases their resistance to weeds and pests. Perhaps we can learn to
tolerate a few weeds.
In a survey of New York it was found that 87% of the state’s schools
use pesticides containing substances that cause immediate and long-term
health problems. As a result of this type of exposure children may
exhibit a reduction or inability to pay attention in school, diminished
IQ, hyperactivity, aggression, unruliness and sleepiness. The more
serious long-term consequence is damaged immune systems that affect the
ability to ward off serious illness or cancer.
Doris Rapp, MD. author and researcher has written several books on
allergies and the connection to learning and behavior problems in
children. She writes that “Herbicides are pesticides kill more than
weeds, can be neuro toxic or potentially harmful to the brain, nervous
and hormonal systems of pets and humans as well as to insects. Why
tolerate brain-damaging substances in or near our schools, or anywhere
else?” This statement should make us think about why such a large number
of children appear to have learning problems and what they may be
exposed to at school and at home. Non-toxic methods to least-toxic
alternatives are available. If a potentially toxic substance must be
used it should be applied while children are away and as little as
possible used to do the job.
Many parents have panicked when faced with a child who comes home
with head lice or scabies and have used a shampoo containing a pesticide
on the child’s head. A common active ingredient is Lindane, an
organochlorine related to the now banned DDT that may result in seizures
or severe mental retardation. Here, the non-toxic alternative is to use
coconut or olive oil based soaps as they have natural insecticidal
properties. Saturate the hair and scalp in olive oil and wrap in a towel
overnight. Use a nit comb in the morning to remove the dead lice and
Common sense tells us there should be a system in place to protect
the consumer such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which, as
it turns out, registers pesticides and herbicides but is not a consumer
product safety program. It determines whether or not the product will
kill its target. Of the 600 active pesticide ingredients they have
registered the EPA will provide safety assurance for only six of them.
Even if pesticide is banned it can be legally used as an inert filler
and in some cases 99% of a pesticide’s ingredients may be inert. This
makes a strong case for going organic in your home and shopping habits.
Since children eat mush more in the way of fruit and vegetables than
adults per pound of body weight and because their immune systems are not
yet fully developed, attention should be paid as to whether the food is
sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Some pesticides can be reduced by
washing or cooking but many are systemic, becoming part of the fruit.
For those unable to afford buying only organic products, your least-risk
choices should be those fruits which can be peeled such as bananas and
This article was written by Karen R. Forbes, former
editor of the Ecological Health Alliance Support News, who researches
and writes on the issue of health and its connection to environmental
and chemical exposures.