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Daily News Blog

09
Mar

Minnesota Biomonitoring Study Addresses Children’s Exposure to Pesticides, Air Pollutants, and Toxic Metals

(Beyond Pesticides, March 9, 2022) In response to local concerns around children’s environmental exposures, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recently published biomonitoring data collected from young children living in urban and rural areas of the state. The findings provide local residents and lawmakers with baseline data on the hazards children are encountering where they live, learn, or play, and point to ways in which families can reduce or eliminate these dangers. With evidence that early life exposures during “critical windows of vulnerability” increase risk of long-term health problems, it is critical for state agencies to both collect data, and take meaningful action to protect children from future harms.

Minnesota lawmakers established a state biomonitoring program in 2007, and have since expanded the project. The current report represents the results of MDH’s Healthy Rural and Urban Kids Project aimed at biomonitoring chemicals in young children. For this round, the agency focused on preschool-aged children living in MN’s rural Becker, Todd, and Wadena counties, as well as those living in urban North Minneapolis. MDH enrolled 232 families during the summer of 2018, provided them with a questionnaire, and tested children for 21 different chemicals in their urine. The chemicals tested were chosen with community input and guidance from a scientific advisory panel. The focus was placed on understanding the impact of air pollution, pesticides, and toxic metals in the environment.

The results did show differences in exposures between rural and urban children. Pesticide exposure also displayed a level of urban/rural divide. Children living within roughly ½ mile of a corn field (which included 61% of rural children tested) were more likely to have traces of the herbicide 2,4-D in their urine than children not living near farm fields. Likewise, living near a soybean field was correlated with higher rates of 3PBA, a metabolite for the synthetic pyrethroid class of insecticides. In urban areas, pesticide use in the home was most closely associated with higher urinary levels of 3PBA. Twenty-three percent of all families had used pesticides in their homes within the last three months. Most concerning, children in urban areas who had pesticides used in the home more than two times within the last three months had urinary levels of 3PBA that were 3x higher than urban families that did not use pesticides.

Of the air pollution chemicals measured, including various polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and other chemicals created from burning or combustion, researchers found that kids in urban areas had higher rates of exposure than those living in rural areas. Additionally, children whose families used incense in the home had higher rates of the PAH 2-Hydroxynaphthalene (2NAP). The connection is not certain, but no other links were found between 2NAP and other potential environmental exposures. Children living in homes where incense was used recorded nearly 2x higher rates of 2NAP in their urine. Among the metals tested (arsenic, chromium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel), high levels of arsenic were found in children that ate rice frequently; kids who ate rice more than 3x per day had over 2x as much arsenic their urine than those who did not.

The results of this project generally line up with prior research on public exposure to environmental hazards. Data published just last month finds that one-third of Americans have detectable levels of 2,4-D in their bodies. As Marlaina Freisthler, a PhD student and researcher at the George Washington University, noted, “These findings raise concerns with regard to whether this heavily used weed-killer might cause health problems, especially for young children who are very sensitive to chemical exposures.”

Likewise, synthetic pyrethroids are frequently detected in the general population. These chemicals are used on farms, landscapes, as well as in the home in commonly sold spray products like RAID®, HOT SHOT®. Widespread use is particularly concerning in light of peer-reviewed data on the dangers these chemicals pose to children’s health. Multiple studies have been published linking synthetic pyrethroids and household pesticide use to developmental problems in children, including ADHD and impacts on motor skill development. Research finds that young boys exposed to synthetic pyrethroids are more likely to experience early onset of puberty, and exposed children are in general at greater risk of developing a respiratory disease.

MDH’s biomonitoring project reveals timely and helpful data that can provide individual families, the general public, and lawmakers with the support necessary to make positive changes that safeguard children’s health. The state expects to both follow-up on and expand this project into a larger statewide program called Healthy Kids Minnesota. “The point is to more systematically move across the state to include more kids and more chemicals,” said Jessica Nelson of MDH to DL-Online. “Each year we’ll do a new non-metro area and five areas in the metro.”

As the state collects data and residents wait for action to reign in toxic exposures to pesticides and other environmental hazards, U.S. residents throughout the country can find steps to move protective action forward in their state or community on Beyond Pesticides Children and Schools program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: DL-Online, Minnesota Department of Health

 

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