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A Generation in Jeopardy? Linking Pesticides and Childhood Diseases

PHOTO: A new report says the prevalence of childhood diseases and disorders is growing in part due to kids' exposure to chemicals used in pesticides.
PHOTO: A new report says the prevalence of childhood diseases and disorders is growing in part due to kids' exposure to chemicals used in pesticides.
October 10, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The prevalence of childhood diseases and disorders is growing in Minnesota and the nation, and a new report says that's attributable in part to extensive use of pesticides.

Dr. David Wallinga, senior adviser on science, food and health at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, says the list includes learning disabilities, childhood cancer, asthma and autism.

"A lot of science keeps getting stronger and stronger, linking pretty serious health conditions with evidence that contributing to those conditions are our huge use of pesticides and the exposure of children, starting really in the womb and going forward."

Some 20,000 pesticides are in use today, Wallinga says, and many were approved without considering their possible health effects on children.

While many may assume that pesticide drift is an issue only in Minnesota's rural communities, Wallinga says residents in cities and suburbs also are affected.

"Pesticides are used in all sorts of different environments, not just in agriculture, but in households, on lawns. And then, a lot of these residues of pesticides either drift in the wind or get deposited by rainfall, so they can easily travel far from where they're applied."

Among those who have had a first-hand experience with the problem is Bonnie Wirtz of Melrose, who says her family and home were enveloped by pesticide drift in June.

"We had chloropyrifos drift on us, and I had some adverse health - I actually almost died because of it. This led me to wonder what (impact) low-dose exposures would have on my son Jayden, because he was with us at the time."

The report makes several recommendations to deal with the issue, from supporting innovative farmers as they transition away from pesticide use to establishing pesticide-free zones around places such as schools and child-care centers.

More information is online at panna.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN