(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2008) A Decade of Children’s Health Research: Highlights from EPA’s Science to Achieve Results Program, a ten-year Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study released March 10, 2008, summarizes important research findings found from $127 million invested in research grants on children’s environmental health in response to an executive order issued in 1997. Executive Order 13045, Protection of Children From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks, requires federal agencies to place a high priority on assessing risks to children. EPA, through its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, issued more than 60 research grants in response to this order, which in turn, produced more than 1000 scientific journal articles.
“Understanding potential environmental health risks to children is important to EPA,” said George Gray, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This research will help us assess and address environmental factors that may affect some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
The report summarizes research from the STAR children’s health program over the past 10 years, highlighting scientific findings in epidemiology, exposure science, genetics, community-based participatory research, interventions, statistics and methods.
Some of the major findings of this research include:
- People metabolize pesticides differently based on their genotype; some faster, others slower. This finding is of particular concern during pregnancy, as many babies do not develop the ability to metabolize some pesticides during the first two years of life, putting them at greater risks of health effects.
- EPA’s ban on two household pesticides (diazinon and chlorpyrifos) resulted in a rapid decrease in exposures in New York City. Children born after the ban were also healthier.
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can be effectively implemented in urban areas to reduce both pesticide and allergen triggers.
- Children living close to major roadways in Southern California have a higher risk of asthma.
- Community partners play a critical role in informing, implementing, and translating children’s environmental health research.
Environmentalists believe that studying children’s health is a good first step, but criticize the agency for not doing more to protect children’s health. For example, the report cites the residential bans on chlorpyrifos as having positive effects on children’s health. Yet, this neurotoxic insecticide still poisons children’s diet through its use in agriculture. In addition, EPA has a double standard when it comes to protecting the children of farmworkers and other rural children, who are exposed through pesticide drift. Additionally, many of the pesticides that replace chlorpyrifos in the residential marketplace, often synthetic pyrethroids, are linked to endocrine disruption, learning disabilities and asthma — all diseases on the rise in the U.S.
To learn more about the impact of pesticides on children’s health, and to learn how to help protect children at home and in schools, visit Beyond Pesticides Children ans Schools project page. For more information on EPA’s report, visit EPA’s Children’s Research page.