Eliminating exposure to pesticides at home is important to children’s health and development

According to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, eliminating exposure to pesticides at home is important to children’s health and development.

Researchers evaluated data from 16 previous studies, looking at the relationship between residential pesticide use and childhood cancers. They found that children’s indoor pesticide exposure was associated with an increased risk of childhood leukemia and lymphoma. and this cancer risk increased with the frequency of use. However, researchers found only a slightly higher risk of childhood cancers with outdoor pesticide exposure, the highest degree associated with the use of  herbicides. 

“Children are uniquely vulnerable to uptake and adverse effects of pesticides because of developmental, dietary, and physiologic factors. Exposure occurs through ingestion, inhalation, or dermal contact. Unintentional ingestion by children may be at a considerably higher dose than an adult because of the greater intake of food or fluids per pound of body weight. Children exhibit frequent hand-to-mouth activity, and this is an important source of increased exposure in comparison with adults.” according to Freeman and his colleagues who published their research in the Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology. 

Outdoor pesticide use is more likely to be washed away from watering and rainfall, reducing the risk of exposure. Still, exposure can occur from pesticides used at parks, in neighboring yards, agricultural areas, and at schools. According to the researchers from this study, every effort should be made to limit children’s exposure to these chemicals wherever children dwell and play.

In 2008, pesticides were the ninth most common substance reported to poison control centers, with 45% of reports associated with children. Organophosphate and carbamate poisoning are the most common, but many other pesticides, like pyrethroid and neonicotinoid insecticides, herebicides, fungicides and rodenticides, are showing more evidence of chronic health problems from both acute and chronic exposure.

Studies also show that pesticides like DDT and organophosphates have an adverse effect on children’s neurodevelopment and behavior. That means poor mental development, inattention, and ADHD. This same data is also showing a possible association to birth weight, birth defects, and fetal death.

Ridding our homes of insects (ants/cockroaches/mosquitos/etc.) and arachnids (spiders/scorpions/etc.) is essential for our family’s health, but there are alternatives that should be used whenever possible.  Alternatives to spraying — keeping areas clean and well ventilated wherever kids live and play.

For more information on these and other chemicals, visit epa.gov