Pesticide poisoning is a serious health problem that disproportionately affects infants and children.
— Goldman 2004

Parents are at the coal face of the change that is happening around us. Young people and children today are sicker than they were a generation ago. Pesticides can harm children via multiple pathways and at the same time. 

Risk assessment of the chemicals permitted in our food and our environment, profoundly fails our children.

  • Risk assessments also do not recognise that children consume more per bodyweight.
  • Studies supplied to government regulators do not investigate potential risk of harm from pesticides at environmentally relevant levels of exposure.
  • Commonly regulators will rely on a study showing harm at levels (picked by the pesticide company) of milligrams per kilogram is then divided by 100 - to get a 'safety factor' to create the daily exposure 'acceptable daily intake' (ADI) or 'reference dose' (RfD).  If governments were to protect children using current methods (which are outdated) - they would impose an extra 10X as a safety factor. For example, the Environmental Working Group explain the differences relating to Californias new limits for glyphosate, and what the limits would be if the safety factor were taken into account here. However the extra 10x safety factor, is not imposed. 
  • Children absorb more - they crawl, walk barefoot, put their hands in their mouth more.
  • The fetus, babies, children and teenagers have vulnerable windows of exposure and can be harmed more than an adult may.
  • Other ingredients in pesticide formulations are not considered for harmful synergies that may make the product more toxic.

 'Maximum residue levels (MRLs) that are set for our foods are based on adult tolerances and do not automatically protect children.  In many ways they don’t protect them at all. Children consume much more relative to bodyweight.  Therefore their intake of pesticides relative to adults is much greater. (For example) Water is 7 times more, it would be a similar level to food. This at a time when they are particularly vulnerable. When MRLs are set they are only based on one pesticide in that food, they do not look at other avenues of exposure. This can result in much greater exposure. From, air, hand to mouth, those ways results in much greater exposure..... We have a situation where a lot of these pesticides have additive or synergistic effect – you add one more pesticide the total effect increases.. this is not looked at when the MRL is set.' [1]

 Parents must love and manage the miserable child, the child who is allergic, the child doesn't thrive, the child who can't concentrate, can't digest food properly, can't fit in, is on the autistic spectrum or the child with heartbreaking, breath holding cancer. Parents are there to directly witness this suffering, and parents know that much of what we are witnessing now was not normal 20 years ago. We are facing a different mix of disease and illness - where 'non-communicable' disease has taken a hold - and our children are in the frontlines. 

As Mark Bittman says, it is time to eat Real Food. To move away from the foods with extra additives, preservatives and the genetically modified higher-pesticide-residue corn/soy/sugarbeet load that is endemic throughout our supermarket foods.  But that's not enough. Increased pesticide residues are on our drinking water, our staple food groups - cereals - our wheat, oats, rye and so on. They've increased the residues on our legumes and other vegetables. There's no tracking the multiple pesticides sprayed cumulatively on and around our fruits and vegetables.

Extract from Poisoning our Future: Children and Pesticides. Dr. Meriel Watts © Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, 2013:

A number of writers (e.g. Muncke 2009) have drawn attention to the pattern of worsening human health shadowing the increase in chemical use in everyday life and chemical pollution of the environment since the wide-spread introduction of industrial chemicals and industrialised agriculture post-World War I. There has been a growing awareness of the potential impact of these synthetic chemicals on child health over the last two decades. In part that has arisen from the observations of the worsening burden of child disease including infectious diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases, as well as behavioural and developmental problems. In 2010, Dr Gina Solomon, gave the following evidence to US Senate hearing about protecting children from environmental threats:    

‘Some childhood diseases and abnormal conditions are on the rise. For example, childhood leukaemia and brain tumours—the two most common childhood cancers—have increased by more than 20% since 1975. Asthma approximately doubled in prevalence between 1980 and 1995 and has stayed at the elevated rate. Certain birth defects of the penis and testes, such as cryptorchidism (undescended testes), have increased 200% between 1970 and 1993. And, of course, there is autism, the diagnosis of which has increased by more than ten-fold in the last 15 years.
— G Solomon 2010

Observations such as these have stimulated a growing concern about children’s exposure to toxic chemicals, and this in turn has fuelled an intense round of scientific investigation that has unravelled some startling information about just how vulnerable a child, and especially the developing foetus in its mother womb, is to exposures of even very low levels of chemicals, especially those that affect the immune, endocrine and neurological systems. Alongside this has emerged an understanding that what ails adults can often be traced back to the womb – that the exposure of the unborn foetus leads to chronic and debilitating conditions in the old-aged, termed the foetal origins of disease, or developmental origins of adult disease.'

.... the USA’s National Research Council report Pesticides in the Diet of infants and Children (NRC 1993),    which clearly spelled out that “children are not little adults” and that they are especially vulnerable to the  effects of pesticides. End extract.  Continue reading...

PAN Asia Pacific created this great infographic. It's important to understand that pesticides and the harm caused to babies and children is an international problem. 

The Vicious cycle of pesticides  -  pesticides action network - pan asia pacific

The Vicious cycle of pesticides  -  pesticides action network - pan asia pacific

Neurotoxicity: The book 'Only One Chance' by Philippe Grandjean , (Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) provides an excellent situational analysis of the effect of environmental chemicals relating to children and brain development.

References - 

[1] Submission Dr Meriel Watts.   Petition 2011/112 House of Representatives urge the New Zealand government to put in place regulations for zero tolerance for pesticides in baby food; specifically that New Zealand match the European Union Directives that processed infant and young children’s food must not contain pesticide residues greater than 0.01ppm (mg/kg).Petition of Alison White and 4276 others. Presented by: Mojo Mathers. Referred to: Primary Production Committee.Date presented 29 May 2014

Resources -

Poisoning our Future: Children & Pesticides 2013 Pesticides Action Network Aotearoa Meriel Watts PhD. 

Kids on the Frontline 2016 Pesticide Action Network North America

United Nations Human Rights – Office of the High Commissioner: UN rights expert urges States and businesses to prevent childhood exposure to toxics and pollution GENEVA (21 September 2016)

Duty to prevent childhood exposure: report to UN Human Rights Council on Rights of Child and Toxics

Chemtrust 2017 Report: No Brainer: The impact of chemicals on children’s brain development: a cause for concern and a need for action

Children & Pesticides don’t mix – Beyond Pesticides Fact Sheet

Report: Pesticide exposure linked to childhood cancer and lower IQ.

Pesticide exposure in children. Roberts JR, Karr CJ Pediatrics. 2012 Dec;130(6):e1765-88. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-2758. Epub 2012 Nov 26. Council On Environmental Health. 

Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. Philippe Grandjean, Philip J Landrigan. The Lancet.