With the world using about 50 times more pesticides today than six decades ago, their harmful impact on the environment and human health has increased alarmingly – and evidence is growing that children are especially vulnerable.
On World Environment Day, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific and PAN North America jointly launched a campaign to protect children from pesticides.
Aside from those used in agriculture and food production, pesticides used in homes, schools, gardens and public places expose children to debilitating and life-long health problems including birth defects, asthma, autism, cancers, diabetes, and other childhood and adult-onset diseases and disorders.
“Infants are infinitely more sensitive to pesticides than adults. At the early stage of their lives their immune systems, their endocrine systems and their neurological systems are all still developing, their brains are developing and they’re very sensitive to the effects of even very small doses of pesticides,” said Dr. Meriel Watts, senior scientific advisor to PAN AP and a New Zealand-based specialist on pesticides, and author of the book published last year, Poisoning our Future: Children and Pesticides - http://www.panap.net/sites/default/files/Poisoning-Our-Future-Children-and-Pesticides.pdf
The campaign highlights 20 pesticides that are particularly hazardous for children. All of them interfere with children’s developing hormonal system (endocrine disruptors). Some cause acute poisoning, many are implicated in cancers including childhood cancers, and some cause behavioural changes and reduced intellectual ability in children. Twelve of the 20 are known to contaminate breast milk and 11 have been found in placental cord blood and/or children’s first faeces – meconium – meaning the children are being born pre-polluted.
“That children are being born already contaminated with pesticides that will undermine their intellectual ability and their health for the rest of their lives, is a tragedy beyond measure. This must stop. It is up to every government to make sure that children are protected from these damaging chemicals by banning them and making sure they are never again used in our countries,” Dr. Watts said.
Whilst the European Union has already banned 12 of the 20 pesticides, New Zealand continues to use 14 of them, including 7 banned by the EU. Some of these were partially reassessed by the EPA last year but their use was allowed to continue because farmers/growers said they need them.
“Apparently the New Zealand government cares more about what growers say they need, even though safer alternatives exist, than it does about children’s health and the future of society. Just one of those pesticides, chlorpyrifos, known to reduce children’s IQ, is linked by international scientists with a silent pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity that is undermining the functioning of society.”
A summary of the effects of the 20 pesticides can be found here.
Factsheets on the 20 pesticides can be found at http://www.panap.net/campaigns/hhps/children-and-pesticides/20pesticides
The 20 pesticides are:
atrazine, carbaryl, chlorothalonil, chlorpyrifos, cyhalothrin, cypermethrin, DDT, deltamethrin, diazinon, dichlorvos, malathion,
mancozeb, maneb, methamidophos, methyl parathion, monocrotophos, paraquat, parathion, permethrin, propoxur.