When assessing potential health risks to their children, parents shouldn’t forget their own backyard. Most conventional lawn herbicides (pesticides that kill weeds) are toxic to children.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center (www.npic.orst.edu), infants and children are more sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides than adults. Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. These are chemicals that kill insects, weeds, and fungi.
Why Are Pesticides Toxic to Children?
The NPIC says pesticides are more toxic to children because:
- An infant’s brain, nervous system, and organs are still developing after birth.
- A baby’s immature liver and kidneys cannot remove pesticides from the body as well as an adult’s liver and kidneys.
- Infants take more breaths per minute and have more skin surface relative to their body weight.
- Children often spend more time closer to the ground, touching baseboards and lawns where pesticides may have been applied.
- Children often eat and drink more relative to their body weight than adults. This can lead to a higher dose of pesticide residue per pound of body weight.
- Babies crawl on treated lawns and carpeting. Crawling may dislodge pesticide residue onto a baby’s skin. The baby also breathes in pesticide-laden dust.
- Young children are also more likely to put their fingers, toys, and other objects into their mouths.
How Are Pesticides Toxic to Children?
Pesticides increase the risk of childhood cancers, such as leukemia and neuroblastoma (the most common brain cancer). The latest research shows that environmental chemicals contribute to the rise in childhood disorders such as autism and ADHD. A recent study shows that kids with ADHD have more pesticide metabolites in their urine.
What Can Parents Do?
The NPIC says it’s important to minimize a child’s exposure to pesticides. One way to minimize exposure to pesticides is to take an approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a pest control strategy that uses a combination of methods. An IPM approach prevents and eliminates pests in the most effective and least hazardous manner.
Use an organic lawn care program instead of the conventional, synthetic approach. Yes, pesticides are pesticides and by their very design are meant to kill. However, organic pesticides do not have synthetic polymers and other additives designed to keep them in the environment much longer than natural. Synthetic polymers make the pesticides more effective, but also increase the risk of exposure to children.
How Can You Keep Your Kids Safe if There Is Synthetic Pesticide Application?
- Keep your windows closed if your lawn is being sprayed with synthetic herbicides (weed killers).
- Keep your child off the lawn for several weeks after it has been treated. The chemicals can rub off on skin even after it is dry.
- Take your shoes off if you have walked on the lawn. This prevents it from getting into your house or carpeting where it does not break down.
- Spot spray the areas that are in need, rather than blanket spraying the entire lawn.
- However, the safest approach of all is to use an organic lawn care program.