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Children of Farm Workers Tested for Effects of Pesticide Exposure
(Beyond Pesticides, July 28, 2004) The Oregon Child Development Coalition (OCDC) recently completed a series of tests to measure the effects of second-hand pesticide exposure in the young children of migrant farm workers. The study is designed to show whether chronic low-dose exposure to pesticides could be causing health and developmental problems in these children. Testing has now been completed and the final results should be available within twelve months.

The program tested forty-three four and five-year-olds from Jackson County, Oregon. Half of the children's families worked in agriculture and the other half did not. The children were given a test called the Behavioral Assessment and Research System (BARS), which measures neurological functions, such as attention, memory, and coordination. The same test has indicated negative effects of pesticide exposure in adults, according to the Mail Tribune.

Migrant farm workers are one of the most disadvantaged groups in the United States and have the poorest health of any group, with significantly higher infant mortality rates and lower life expectancy than the national average, according to Oregon Health Science University, a partner in the study.

The children of workers who handle pesticides are at risk from chemicals that can be tracked into the home on a worker’s boot or clothing. Sally Guyer of the Migrant Worker Head Start program said that this can lead to constant, low-level exposures for children when small amounts of the chemicals are transferred to the floor, toys, or food. This type of exposure is of particular concern in light of recent research that reveals a large number of other toxins in indoor air. According to the American Medical Association, "Particular uncertainty exists regarding the long-term health effects of low-dose pesticide exposure." Some pesticides have been shown to have detrimental effects, even at extremely low levels. (See Daily News stories 5/18/04 and 10/16/03)

The results of the OCDC study will hopefully raise awareness about the effects that pesticide use can have on children and lead to increased preventative measures, reducing children’s exposure to pesticides. "The more awareness, the more workers will take steps to ensure their children are not exposed, like taking off their boots before they enter their home," said Guyer.

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. The U.S. EPA, National Academy of Sciences, and American Public Health Association, among others, have voiced concerns about the danger that pesticides pose to children. The body of evidence in scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child's neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels. Several pesticides, such as pyrethrins and pyrethroids, organophosphates and carbamates, are also known to cause or exacerbate asthma symptoms.

See the study at: http://www.ohsu.edu/croet/aghealth/family.html

TAKE ACTION: Protect your children from pesticide exposure. If you work with hazardous chemicals make sure to remove you shoes before entering the home. Shower and change your clothes after work, making sure to wash your clothes separately from the rest of the family’s. Become an advocate for pesticide-free schools in your area. For more information see our pages on children and schools.