Much to the chagrin of safety-concerned parents, the predominance of conventional agriculture methods has made it harder for families to avoid encountering pesticides in their food. There’s no question about it — pesticide dangers to humans, not to mention children.
Research on pesticide dangers to humans suggests exposure to pest-repellents, specifically those made with chlorpyrifos, pose a great danger not only to a child’s mental development, but also physical growth. US states California, New York, Oregon, and Hawaii have even taken legislative action to ban chlorpyrifos for the safety of state residents and the environment.
As the data suggests, your child has probably already come into contact with a potentially harmful pesticide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found 96% of US children across the nation came into contact with chlorpyrifos, known to cause neurological problems in young brains.
Further research is necessary in order to determine at which age children are most vulnerable to the damaging effects of pesticides. However, Rutgers University School of Public Health Professor Nancy Fiedler stressed to Futurity that in spite of the search for answers, what’s certain is most children are at risk of suffering from coming in contact with pesticides. This also includes children living in non-agricultural areas, where such chemicals are less likely to be sprayed.
Expecting Moms, Beware
Although scientists are still determining the age of peak pesticide vulnerability, fetuses are proven to be the most susceptible to suffering neurological damage after exposure to pest-repellents. Since young children and unborn babies have underdeveloped immune systems, “if a pregnant mother ingests or breathes in the chemical, it can cross through the placenta and affect the fetus,” Fiedler told Futurity.
Children exposed to pesticides in the womb are likely to suffer from low birth weight, lower mental and motor development, and lower intelligence. They also develop a higher risk for autism and attention deficit disorders. Overall, the persistence of these risks into middle school years stunt cognitive ability.
In order to prevent yet-to-be-born baby from coming into contact with pesticides, expecting mothers should avoid working in areas where pest-repellents are sprayed. Families whose homes are sprayed are entitled to asking the building manager about the pesticide company and the kinds of chemicals they use.
Those whose homes receive a pesticide treatment should also not leave out any stuffed animals or toys children often touch with their mouths. Any carpet should also be removed since chemicals can linger in these plush materials for days.
At home, parents should also adopt a no-shoes policy. This will prevent pesticides from seeping into the floors of your home. After walking across a lawn, guests can track pesticide- and herbicide-filled fertilizers from outside into your home’s floors and carpet.
Consuming Pesticide-Free Food
As for pesticides in food, there are other ways to dodge chemicals other than buying pricey organic options. Fiedler suggested parents always wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them, regardless of whether you plan on eating peels. The best way to do this is: first soaking the produce in water, then scrub the surface clean.
Fiedler also advised washing hands after touching thick-skinned fruit like oranges and bananas, so as to not taint the clean, washed produce ready for consumption.
Lastly, organically growing your own food in your backyard or community garden is a way to ensure your diet is pesticide-free. Produce like asparagus, blueberries, and strawberries are low maintenance and stay fresh over time.