Pesticides and Children's Health
Toxic Free Kids | Toxic Free Child Care | Toxic Free Schools
Every day, new science shows us that children are not just small adults, and that the outdated methods we use to protect them from toxic pollutants like pesticides are not as effective as we thought.
Children can be much more vulnerable to harmful health effects from exposure to pollutants and pesticides. That's because their bodies are still developing, they take in so much more
food and water relative to their body size than adults
do, and they spend so much more time exploring
the ground and objects where contaminants settle.
In light of these considerations,
physicians and children’s advocates urge a precautionary
approach to protect the developing fetus, infants and children
from environmental toxicants.
The polluters, on the other
hand, want to precisely quantify pollutants’ effects
on children before taking any meaningful steps to reduce
exposures. The resulting political squabble leaves parents
and local communities on their own to decide how to handle
toxic hazards to their children.
Find out more:
Local efforts to reduce children’s exposures to toxic
contaminants include innovative approaches and alternatives
to toxics, such as:
Researchers are also looking at the ways children can be
affected by toxics in the environment.
- The National Institutes of Health are conducting a long-term
study of 100,000 US children that will examine
the effects of environmental contaminants on a broad
range of health topics, including obesity, asthma & allergies,
and child growth
& development. Children from several North Carolina counties are part of the study population.
- The US Centers for Disease Control are conducting
an ongoing study of pervasive pollution in the human
body in their National
Reports on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.
This “body burden” study has found that
children have much higher levels of many pesticides
in their bodies than adults. Additional contaminants are added to the monitoring data in each report. The Fourth National Report was published in late 2009 included data on 75 new chemicals, including brominated flame retardants.
- Excellent resources are available to help you follow
research on children’s environmental health,
including the journal Environmental
Health Perspectives (Children’s health edition)
and Environmental Health News.
The chemical industry wants quantified, undeniable proof of the specific harms
caused to children by environmental contaminants before
governments take action to protect children.
To that end,
the industry is sponsoring both research and public relations
campaigns to both promote a
“green” image and weaken restrictions on their
products, or prevent new restrictions being enacted.
Sowing doubt. The chemical industry spends many millions of dollars annually on research and “product defense” consultants whose job is to cast doubt on scientific evidence that brings the safety of their products into question.
These tactics were developed largely in the era of Big Tobacco, and are now being widely used by companies who lobby federal regulators and agencies such as the Food & Drug Administration, US Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control, and of course Congress.
The Obama administration has responded by announcing steps to restore the “integrity of science” to government processes; however the influence of science-for-hire on public perception and politics remains widespread and extremely well-funded.
Greenwashing. Heightened consumer awareness has led many product manufacturers to place “eco-friendly” labels on their products, but recent investigations show that such labels are usually vague, meaningless or unverifiable.
For example, TerraChoice’s 2009 report on Greenwashing for the Canadian government’s EcoLogo program found that 98% of eco-labeled products committed at least one greenwashing sin, such as lack of proof, intentionally-vague language or "hidden trade-offs" – the practice of emphasizing a product's green aspects while concealing others that are environmentally damaging.