Emerging science points to pesticides as a key contributor to childhood diseases and disorders, requiring swift action from policymakers
Los Angeles – Learning disabilities, childhood cancer and asthma are on the rise in the United States. A new report out today points to pesticides – with over 1 billion pounds applied on farms and homes annually in the US– as a critical contributor to these health harms in children. In Los Angeles alone, nearly 2 million pounds of pesticides are applied annually.
“We have waited much, much too long to make the health of our children a national priority,” said Martha Dina Argüello of Physicians for Social Responsibility- Los Angeles. “This report shines a light on a completely preventable tragedy – that a generation of children will not reach their full potential. This represents a truly staggering loss we can no longer ignore.”
In particular, the report points to the fact that children are sicker today than a generation ago, confronting serious health challenges from pesticides and other chemical exposures that their parents and grandparents were unlikely to face.
Californians for Pesticide Reform, in conjunction with health professionals, mothers and rural leaders released the new report, which draws from academic and government research to chronicle the emerging threat of pesticides to children’s health. Compiled by researchers and scientists at Pesticide Action Network, A Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health and intelligence focuses on studies published within the past five years – a growing body of evidence that convincingly demonstrates a link between pesticide exposure and childhood health harms.
“Pesticides have unique and profound impacts on the developing child, even in very small amounts. The growing body of research tells us that pesticides, in combination with other environmental and behavioral factors, are creating a looming epidemic of diseases and disorders,” states Argüello. “We must act now so we are not putting another generation of children in harm’s way.”
The report 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. 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 schools and playing fields in Connecticut to protective buffer zones for schools and neighborhoods in California’s central valley, policies designed to keep children out of harm’s way are gaining momentum. In Los Angeles the LAUSD has effectively implemented a low risk pest management program based in the idea of precaution and had operated successfully for over 10 years.
The report was released today in ten cities across the country, including Bakersfield, Des Moines, Fresno, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Salinas, San Francisco, Stockton, and Ventura.
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Pesticide Action Network North America (PAN North America or PANNA) works to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five PAN Regional Centers worldwide, the organization is committed to science grounded in communities.
Californians for Pesticide Reform is a coalition of over 185 health, environmental and farmworker organizations that works to improve and protect public health, sustainable agriculture, and environmental quality by building a movement across California that changes statewide pesticide policies and practices.
Available for interviews:
Emily Marquez, PhD, co-author and staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network
Kristin Schafer, MA, co-author and senior policy strategist at Pesticide Action Network
Martha Dina Arguello Chair of Steering Committee of Californians for Pesticide Reform and Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles