3 Simple Q&As about Children and Pesticides

In order to make informed-choices as consumers, we need answers. Yet, when it comes to whether we should buy produce that is organically or conventionally grown, we often hear conflicting reports in the media. As a mother, I wanted to find out more about the effects of pesticides on children.

In my quest for answers, I consulted the web sites of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a US environmental non-profit agency.The EWG advises consumers to buy organic produce whenever possible or, at least, to buy the organic variety of the dirty dozen, the 12 types of produce with the highest pesticide levels.

The EWG argues that studies are often conducted using strictly high doses of pesticides and do not look at low-level exposure over a sustained period of time, exposure from multiple sources or the resulting effects when pesticides come into contact with other harmful substances in our environment.

The EWG also reminds us that the pesticide DDT was considered safe right up until the day the EPA banned it.

Why do pesticides pose a greater risk to children?

Children's vital organs are still developing, and  their enzymatic, metabolic and immune systems cannot metabolize or inactivate toxins the way an adult's systems can. In addition, we all go through critical development periods in which toxins can cause permanent damage to our body's systems.

Why are children subject to greater pesticide exposure than adults?

Because of the foods they eat. Consider some typical "kid food." Children consume more milk, applesauce and orange juice than adults. They also consume more per pound of body weight. Just compare a 180-lb man to a 40-lb child drinking the same amount of orange juice.

In addition, children are more likely to play in the grass and on the floor where pesticides have been applied, and they are a lot more likely to put things in their mouths.

We should also bear in mind that pesticides are used not only on crops on farms, but also in homes, schools, parks and hospitals.

What are some of the adverse effects of pesticides?

Some mild adverse effects of exposure to pesticides are dizziness and nausea; however, over the long-term pesticides can alter development and cause damage to the neurological and reproductive systems.

*The EWG also lists carcinogenic effects.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Pesticides - Topical and Chemical Fact Sheet
Environmental Working Group
Shopper's Guide to Pesticides


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