Children are at greater health risk from pesticide exposure than adults. Pesticides have been linked to numerous health problems, including asthma, dermatitis, learning disabilities, leukemia, brain tumors and certain childhood cancers.
Several factors contribute to this vulnerability. We may think of children as “little adults”, but in fact, their bodies are not fully prepared to handle toxic chemicals. Because their glands, pancreas, liver and kidneys are still developing, children’s metabolic and immune systems can not completely detoxify and eliminate toxins. Many pesticides are hormone blockers and others mimic hormones, which can have serious affects on children’s development, in those early years of rapid development, between birth and six years.
Absorption through the skin is the most common route of pesticide exposure among adults and children. The dermal area of an infant per unit of body weight is greater than that of an adult.
Pesticide residues in the home pose a greater threat to children living there. Also, children’s breathing zones are closer to the floor, which exposes them to higher concentrations of pesticides that tend to linger at floor level. Because children breathe more rapidly than adults, this situation creates exposure through inhalation.
Children’s normal play and social development can cause pesticide exposure as well. Behaviors such as crawling and playing on the floor put them at risk from pesticide residues. Children are also quick to put hands, toys and other things in their mouth. Objects that may have pesticide residues on them (some are not visible) can cause exposure via ingestion. Children’s natural curiosity too, leads them to explore kitchen cabinets and other areas where household chemicals may be stored. These risks to children’s health can be greatly reduced, if not eliminated, with certain precautions.