Children encounter pesticides every day and are uniquely vulnerable to their toxicity. A new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) outlines the harmful effects of pesticides on children and makes recommendations on how to reduce exposure. The policy statement, “Pesticide Exposure in Children,” and an accompanying technical report are published in the December 2012 issue of Pediatrics (released online Nov. 26).
Prenatal and early childhood exposure to pesticides is associated with pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems. According to the AAP, recognizing and reducing children’s exposure to pesticides will require improved medical training, public health tracking, and regulatory approaches. The AAP recommends pediatricians become familiar with the effects of acute and chronic exposures to pesticides; learn what resources are available for both treatment of acute poisoning and addressing lower dose chronic exposures in children; and understand pesticide labeling. Pediatricians should ask parents about pesticide use around the home and yard, offer guidance about safe storage, and recommend parents choose lowest-harm approaches when considering pest control. Pediatricians should also work with schools and government agencies to advocate for the least toxic methods of pest control, and to inform communities when pesticides are being used in the area.
The policy statement also makes a number of recommendations for government, including specific recommendations related to marketing, labeling, use and safety of pesticides to minimize children’s exposure.