By: Vashti Kelly, Program Manager

      Did you know that children are more vulnerable to the effects of pesticide exposure than adults? According to the EPA, over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the United States each year and approximately 5.6 billion pounds are used worldwide. So, no child is immune to pesticide exposure. Children are exposed to pesticide residues from the foods they consume, the proximity of schools to public parks and water supplies, and general applications occurring in school and home environments. Now, imagine having a child growing up in one of the many rural communities in this country. Not only are those children facing the same exposures as children across this country but they are at greater risk because of the constant use of pesticides in the surrounding agriculture.


      All pesticides are poisonous and pose some kind of risk. However, children are more sensitive to the venomous effects of pesticides because their brains, nervous systems, and organs are still developing. On top of which; children have an innate predisposition to learn through exploration and touch, for young children this means putting objects in their mouths. And, should a child be exposed to pesticides, their immature livers and kidneys are not able to process and remove those chemicals in the same fashion that those of an adult would function.

     Children exposed to pesticides experience both acute and chronic health problems, ranging from dizziness and nausea to the more serious learning disabilities and cancers. The difficulty lies in that the chronic health problems take some time to exhibit and because children are being exposed at such critical stages in their development, it is having extremely harmful effects with the potential of lasting a lifetime.

       The Pesticide Action Network recently released a new report: Kids on the Frontline, which takes a look at how our food system’s constant dependence on pesticides is impairing the health of children in agricultural communities. Building on their 2012 report, A Generation in Jeopardy, the current report focuses on previous studies conducted and how there continues to be a climb in childhood instances of cancer and neurodevelopmental damage among children in rural communities. The report also looks a specific group of children in rural communities, farmworker children, who have an additional threat known as ‘Take-home Exposure’.

Drought Conservation Funds

        Farmworker children not only live in rural communities, some live directly next to the fields in which their parents or they themselves work. This means that residues are being carried straight from the fields into their homes and vehicles from the clothing, shoes, and other items carried into the fields. Proximity to the fields also makes those same childhood behaviors of play twice as dangerous for farmworker children who are constantly at threat of drift or contaminated runoff after pesticide applications. This is why AFOP Health & Safety works to prevent such incidents in order to help make a brighter future for children at higher risk of pesticide exposure. Every year AFOP Health & Safety trains over 10,000 farmworkers and their families on Limiting [Pesticide] Exposure Around Families (LEAF).

     Remember if a child has been exposed and is demonstrating any of the symptoms mentioned above, call 911 and get an ambulance to the site and get them to the emergency department.

If you have an emergency call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. (hyperlinked in text)

The ones the law forgot: Children Working in Ag