Pediatricians Warn of Pesticide Exposure

Pesticide exposure to children can lead to long-term health problems

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Residues from pesticides are all around us: in the air, in our food, in dust, in soil. Whether used in farming or in homes, these chemicals can affect children exposed to them.

The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) has therefore issued a policy statement discussing possible health issues related to children's pesticide exposure. They discuss the risks of pesticide exposure to children and encourage parents and pediatricians to work together to reduce exposure.

The AAP said parents should keep household pesticides out of reach and talk to pediatricians about how to reduce their children's exposure to these chemicals.

"Keep pesticides away from kids."

The AAP report was written by the organization's Council on Environmental Health, led by James Roberts, MD, MPH, and Catherine J. Karr, MD, PhD. The AAP statement notes that children encounter pesticides used in households and on pets, such as flea and tick shampoos. But they also encounter agricultural pesticide residue through their diet, especially with non-organic foods.

While severe poisoning from outright drinking or otherwise ingesting pesticides is a serious problem, general lower level exposure can also have effects on children.

"Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems," the AAP states.

They also point out that a number of chemicals used in pesticides are classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens (chemicals that cause cancer).

Another long-term effect that can result from high exposures to pesticides includes asthma in children. Pregnant women with high exposures are at greater risk for giving birth early and having babies with a low birth weight or birth defects.

But what can individuals do to reduce their risk and their children's risk to pesticides?

The AAP recommends that more use of integrated pest management occur in trying to control or eliminate pests. This is an approach to pest control that considers pesticide use but also looks at other ways to reduce insects and other pests, such as monitoring, weeding, trapping and planting crops less likely to attract pests.

The AAP also recommends that warning signs always be used in areas where pesticides are used and that schools restrict specific pesticide types. Parents should be aware of what types of pesticides they use in their home and consult their pediatrician about whether they are safe to use around children.

Parents should also be sure they are storing pesticides and other chemicals in out-of-reach locations that children are unable to access.

Parents who want to use less toxic chemicals in their home should ask their pediatrician about alternatives for pesticides and other household chemical products. Parents can also talk to the administration at their children's schools to find out what pesticides are used there, what safety measures they have in place and whether there are safer alternatives available for some chemicals.

The AAP policy statement was published November 26 in the journal Pediatrics. No external funding was used for the paper.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 23, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013