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No Pesticides Day Celebrates Children’s Health
(Beyond Pesticides, May 7, 2004)
Westchester County’s No Pesticides Day is May 8 this year, and is focused on how to protect children from the dangers of pesticides. Children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure. They take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults in the food they eat and air they breathe. Their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to toxic exposure. These vulnerabilities require vigilance to protect their health, on No Pesticides Day and everyday.

In observation of No Pesticides Day, take the following action steps to protect children, public health and the environment:

1.Cancel all routine spray service for pest control in your home. Learn about least toxic alternatives by checking out our Alternative Fact Sheets.

2. Stop routine applications of lawn pesticides. Including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. For help, see Least-toxic Control of Lawn Pests.

3. Make sure your school complies with any pesticide regulations. See State and Local School Policies for assistance.

4. Begin eating more organic food and wash or peel fruits and vegetables. This is especially important for babies and small children.

5. Dispose of pesticides properly. Check with your local hazardous waste agency to find out how.

6. Be aware that pesticides are in many products. Try to avoid purchasing products that contain them. These can include: swimming pool chemicals, soap (antimicrobials), paints, wallpaper (fungicides), shelving paper, and mothballs. There are even pesticides in the "edible" waxes on fruits and vegetables. You can find more about hidden pesticides in CHEC’s HealtheHouse at www.checnet.org

7. Avoid purchase of chromated copper arsenate (CCA) treated wood. This lumber, commonly known as “pressure-treated,” has been used extensively in a variety of outdoor building projects including decks, fencing, picnic tables, playgrounds and railroad ties often used for gardens. Recent testing shows that high levels of carcinogenic arsenic leaches from the CCA treated lumber and can get on children’s clothing and hands. There is no “safe level” of arsenic exposure in children. Learn more about CCA and safer alternatives from CCA-Treated Wood: Risks, Safety and Alternatives, A Beyond Pesticides Resource Kit.

8. Protect your child from mosquitoes and ticks by having them wear long sleeves and pants at hours that mosquitoes bite and in grassy areas and woods. Avoid the use of DEET, and opt for less toxic personal repellants such as Herbal Armor, reapplying often.

9.Check if chemical treatments are being used for weed or insect control at the fields where your child plays sports. Request that recreational directors in charge of community athletic fields implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan with stated yearly goals of pesticide reduction and use of least toxic pesticides. Information about maintaining fields without the use of pesticides can be found at http://www.safeturf.com/.

10. If you have an outbreak of a pest problem, contact Beyond Pesticides.

There are plenty of resources available for anyone looking to become involved in decreasing the threat of pesticides. Physicians can learn more about health hazards linked to pesticides from the scientific background papers on the website of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Center for Children’s Health and the Environment. They need to also take a pesticide use history and encourage patients to stop using them.

Parents needing professional guidance about pesticide exposure may want to call the Pediatric Environmental Specialty Unit at 866-265-6201.

Pregnant women and nursing mothers need to be especially vigilant to avoid pesticide exposure in the ways outlined above. In addition there are situations that one wouldn’t expect to have a danger of pesticide exposure. In the spring hardware stores often have bags of pesticides, which can off gas pesticides. Tree nurseries use pesticides so often that pregnant and nursing women should probably avoid them all together unless it is an organic nursery. Airlines also often use pesticides on some flights.

Everyone is encouraged to take part in reducing the use of toxic pesticides in any way they can. Parents can educate themselves about pesticides by reading the authoritative book by Philip Landrigan M.D., “Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World."

Involve your children by going to the Green Squad website.