Report Links Children’s Health to Pesticide Exposure

Learning disabilities, childhood cancer and asthma are on the rise in the United States. And a new report from Pesticide Action Network (PAN) points to pesticides – with over 1 billion pounds applied on farms and homes annually – as a critical contributor to these health harms in children. The report, “A Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health & intelligence” shines a light on the growing links between exposure to pesticides where children, live, learn and play and an array of impacts on the mind and body – including diminished IQ, ADHD & autism, childhood cancers and asthma. For excerpts of findings and proposed priorities, read on.

In particular, the report points to the following trends across studies:

  • The brains and nervous systems of boys are significantly more affected than girls.
  • Timing of exposure is critically important. If a child is exposed to even very small amounts of a harmful pesticide during a particular moment of development, the impacts can be severe – and often irreversible.
  • Studies link exposure to pesticides during pregnancy to increased risk of childhood leukemia and brain cancer. And children who live in intensively agricultural areas are more likely to have childhood cancer.

The report outlines a series of urgent recommendations for state and federal policymakers to better protect children’s health and intelligence, recommendations emphasized by organizations on Tuesday.

“Enough scientific evidence is in – we can’t fail our children. While individual household choices can help, protecting kids from the health harms of pesticides requires real and swift policy change,” said Emily Marquez, PhD, report co-author and staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “Dramatically reducing pesticide use, starting with those most hazardous to children, is the best way to protect current and future generations.”

The report points to the need for the following reforms to reduce pesticide use:

  • Create stronger policy tools so enforcement agencies can take swift action to pull existing pesticides off the market and block new pesticides when independent studies suggest they are harmful to children.
  • Increase investment and support for innovative farmers as they transition away from pesticide use.
  • Set and track national pesticide use reduction goals, focusing first on those pesticides that studies show are harmful to children.
  • Withdraw harmful pesticide products from use in homes, daycare centers and schools.
  • Establish pesticide-free zones around schools, daycare centers and neighborhoods in agricultural areas to protect children from harmful exposures, especially pesticide drift.

The report highlights states and communities across the country where innovative policies have been put in place to protect children from pesticides where they live, learn and play. From pesticide-free playing fields in Connecticut to protective buffer zones for schools and neighborhoods in California’s central valley and organic school lunch programs in Minnesota, policies designed to keep children out of harm’s way are gaining momentum.


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