(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2009) “Children Act Fast…So Do Poisons” is the message that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sending in conjunction with the Poison Prevention Week Council to keep poisonous substances out of the hands of children. In observance of the annual National Poison Prevention Week (March 14-20), EPA recommends locking up household cleaners, disinfectants, solvents and other materials as the best way to reduce accidental poisoning among children. However, Beyond Pesticides advises the public to throw out poisonous chemicals and utilize non-toxic methods of pest management.
While it is wise to keep all potentially harmful household products out of the reach and hands of children, Beyond Pesticides recommends to the public to abandon poisonous chemicals and instead practice non-toxic methods of pest management and use least-toxic chemicals where possible. EPA continues to facilitate and apologize for the unnecessary use of highly toxic pesticides, disinfectants, solvents and other hazardous materials that it registers, and misses every year the important opportunity during National Poison Prevention Week to alert families with children about integrated pest management and organic methods that are effective, but not reliant on hazardous methods. Numerous scientific studies that show children carrying a body burden of pesticides used in homes and elevated rates of childhood cancer in households that use pesticides, given children’s special vulnerability to pesticides.
“Proper and safe storage, use and supervision of all household products can substantially reduce exposures in the home,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “Poison Prevention Week serves as a reminder for everyone to keep pesticides away from children, and to read and follow all labels to minimize the potential dangers from pesticides.”
However, EPA fails to alert the public to the limitations of the pesticide regulatory process, such as no evaluation of endocrine disrupting effects, low level exposures, the effects of mixtures and synergistic effects between pesticides and with pharmaceuticals, etc. EPA chooses to focus on pesticide poisoning of children associated with accidental ingestion which, while important, does not capture the many other ways through which children are exposed to chemicals. For instance, a wide range of consumer products such as deodorants, soaps and toys contain the antibacterial pesticide triclosan, which is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones, which could potentially increase the risk for cancer. Fetal exposure to triclosan, which accumulates in the human body, can impair brain development and long-term neuropsychological development.
Secondary exposures to pesticides and other toxic chemicals should not be ignored. Studies have found pesticides in household dust and persists in homes, even after removed from the market. In 2008, a study found significant amounts of pyrethroid pesticides in indoor dust of homes and childcare centers, while another found that 75% of homes with pregnant women were contaminated with pesticides. Hazardous wood preservatives, still allowed for use on utility poles, continue to be found on children’s playgrounds. In a tragic case earlier this year, two girls, aged 4 years and 15 months, died after a toxic pesticide drifted into their home. The agency stresses the importance of reading the product label, which is misleading in suggesting that compliance with the pesticide label instructions is fully protective of children, the public and the environment.
EPA promotes poison prevention each year during National Poison Prevention Week to increase public awareness of the potential danger to children from pesticides and other household products. In 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that more than half of the two million poisoning incidents each year involve children younger than six years old. Leading causes of poisoning include cosmetics such as perfume and nail polish, deodorant and soap, household cleaning products and medications.
If you have been exposed to a pesticide or other toxic substance and may be experiencing non-life-threatening symptoms, call your local poison center hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Call 911 in case of more serious exposures. EPA urges the public also to report all exposures to the product manufacturer (including the registration number found on the product label of all pesticide products registered by EPA).
Source: EPA New Release