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How To Protect Children From Exposure To Pesticides

Most parents know that their children are exposed to pesticides on foods. But many may not be aware of the quantity or pervasiveness of other non-food pesticide exposures their kids encounter in a typical day, or they may not understand the risk of these cumulative exposures. Parents may not be aware of pesticides in schools, playground, gardens, in-home sprays, public buildings and airplanes. We talk to Dr. Donald Mattison, medical director of the March of Dimes, about the dangers of pesticide exposure and what parents can do to protect their children.


  1. What Are Some Common Places Where Children Might Be Exposed to Pesticides?


    • Schools: lockers, cafeterias and classrooms
    • Playgrounds, parks and athletic fields
    • Pet flea collars and fur
    • Gardens and lawns
    • In-home sprays and no-pest strips
    • Public buildings and airplanes


  2. What Are Some of the Symptoms That Can Occur From Pesticide Exposure?


    Poisoning by pesticides in humans has caused a myriad of short and long-term nervous system disturbances, including agitation, insomnia, muscle weakness, respiratory agitation, nervousness, irritability, forgetfulness, confusion and depression. In fact, some of the chemicals used in pesticides are actually nerve attacking poisons developed during World War Two. There are suggestions that chronic low exposure to these chemicals can be dangerous, even cause cancer! However, we just don't have a lot of data when it comes to exposure to children right now.


  3. What Are Some of the Pesticides Commonly Used and Which Products Can They Be Found In?


    There are more than 600 chemicals being used in pesticides so to list them would be impossible. But here are two widely used pesticide types:


    • ORGANOPHOSPHATES/CARBAMATES: These are designed as neurotoxins, poisoning the nervous system of unwanted insects. Avoid use indoors, especially if children or pets are present. They are toxic to fish, birds and bees. Avoid running off into wells, and water bodies.
    • REAL-KILL DURSBAN ANT, FLEA & TICK KILLER
      Chlorphyrifos (Dursban)
    • ORTHO DIAZINON GRANULES
      Diazinon
    • SEVIN BUG KILLER
      Carbaryl
    • ORTHO MALATHION 50 PLUS
      Malathion


    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing some of these chemicals. You may recall that earlier this year, the EPA banned the popular pesticide DURSBAN as an unacceptable risk to children. DURSBAN was found in some popular Raid sprays and Black Flag roach and ant killer. However, it is still on some store shelves and people may still have it in their homes.


    • SYNTHETIC PYRETHROIDS: These are insecticides derived from natural plants and they are more long lasting. Some compounds can be toxic to human, bird and fish. Keep away from wells, water.
    • ORTHO HOME DEFENSE INDOOR & OUTDOOR INSECT KILLER
      Bifenthrin
    • RAID YARD GUARD OUTDOOR FOGGER FORMULA VII
      Permethrin
    • NIX LICE TREATMENTPermethrin
    • BAYER LAWN & GARDEN MULTI-INSECT KILLER
      Cyfluthrin


  4. Are Children More Vulnerable to the Effects of Pesticide Exposure?


    Yes, they are. One reason is that their internal organs are still developing and maturing. Another is that in relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults that may increase their exposure to pesticides in food and water. Also, certain behaviors such as playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths increase a child's exposure to pesticides used in homes and yards.


  5. What Are Some of the Health Risks Children Face From Pesticide Exposure?


    Pesticides may harm a developing child by blocking the absorption of important food nutrients necessary for normal healthy growth. Some pesticides are known as hormone disruptors, which can cause reproductive system abnormalities and behavioral changes, especially in fetuses and youn children. Also, children are generally less able than adults to detoxify and excrete certain toxins, therefore they are more vulnerable. Another, the nervous system is not well able to repair any structural damage that is caused by environmental toxins.


  6. How Can Parents Protect Their Children Against Pesticide Exposure?


    1. Consider non-chemical methods
    2. Use bait stations
    3. If spraying, follow directions on label
    4. Remove dishes and put food in airtight containers
    5. Keep babies, children and pregnant women away from home
    6. Wash surfaces where food is prepared or served
    7. Cover children's play equipment and bring toys inside


  7. In The Northeast, There's an Agressive Pesticide Spraying Campaign Against Mosquitoes to Prevent The Spread of the West Nile Virus. How Safe Is the Pesticide Being Used?


    In New York City, officials are using a synthetic insecticide called Resmethrin instead of the better-known Malathion that was used during last year's outbreak. Resmethrin decomposes quickly in sunlight when exposed to air and is relatively non-toxic to humans, dogs, cats and other mammals. However, it may cause skin irritation, headache, stuffy or runny nose, scratchy throat or dizziness. Parents still need to take precautions. Last year, the spraying of Malathion sparked dozens of complaints that it caused rashes and breathing difficulties.

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