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The Negative Effects of Pesticides on Children

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

Photo by Fotolia/felinda

The conventional agriculture industry claims that the pesticides, herbicides and insecticides it uses are safe when used as directed, but peer-reviewed evidence suggests otherwise. André Leu investigates these claims in The Myths of Safe Pesticides (Acres U.S.A., 2014), translating technical jargon into layman's terms to break down the five most-repeated myths about pesticide safety. The following excerpt is from chapter 1, "Myth #1: Rigorously Tested."

The USPCP and many scientific researchers have expressed concern that the current toxicology testing methodologies are grossly inadequate for children.

The USPCP report stated, "They [children] are at special risk due to their smaller body mass and rapid physical development, both of which magnify their vulnerability to known or suspected carcinogens, including radiation."

This is a critically important issue given that, according to the USPCP, "Approximately 40 chemicals classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known, probable, or possible human carcinogens, are used in EPA-registered pesticides now on the market."

The main food regulator in Australia and New Zealand, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), acknowledged that children had the highest levels of dietary exposure to pesticides when they published the 20th Australian Total Diet Survey due to their size and weight ratios in relation to the amount of residues they receive from food. "In general, the dietary exposure to pesticide residues was highest for the toddler age group. This is due to the high food consumption relative to body weight." FSANZ, along with most regulators, are not concerned about this because pesticide residues in food are usually below the maximum residue limits. However the USPCP and other scientific researchers have pointed out that the current testing protocols are based on testing mature animals and ignore the specific physiological differences between mature animals and the fetus, newborns, and developing young, including humans.

According to the USPCP, "Chemicals typically are administered when laboratory animals are in their adolescence, a methodology that fails to assess the impact of in utero, childhood, and lifelong exposures."

This is a critical issue as there is a large body of published science showing that the fetus and the newborn are continuously being exposed to numerous chemicals. The USPCP stated, "Some of these chemicals are found in maternal blood, placental tissue, and breast samples from pregnant women and mothers who recently gave birth. These findings indicate that chemical contaminants are being passed on to the next generation, both prenatally and during breastfeeding."