You are here: Home Blog Chlorphyrifos and Children

Chlorphyrifos and Children

by aseligmann — last modified Aug 10, 2010 12:00 AM

Most of you have probably eaten a Washington-grown apple. But you probably didn't know that most of these apple trees are literally blasted with insecticides that are harmful to the nervous system (including the brain!). One of these insecticides – a well-studied chemical called chlorpyrifos – was banned for use in homes because of its high risk to children. But there are still children who are being exposed to this chemical - the children in farming communities where your apples and other foods are grown

Children Need Protection from Insecticide - Indoors and Outdoors

Most of you have probably eaten a Washington-grown apple. But you probably didn't know that most of these apple trees are literally blasted with insecticides that are harmful to the nervous system (including the brain!). One of these insecticides – a well-studied chemical called chlorpyrifos – was banned for use in homes because of its high risk to children. But there are still children who are being exposed to this chemical - the children in farming communities where your apples and other foods are grown.

Chlorpyrifos: Documented Harm To Children

A new study showed that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos impairs children's mental and motor development.

The study involved inner-city children who were born before the 2002 ban on residential use of chlorpyrifos. Children in the study were grouped according to the amount of chlorpyrifos found in their umbilical cord blood at birth.

Delayed mental development was found in a greater proportion of children in the high-exposure group than in the low exposure group. Children in the high exposure group were also five times more likely to do poorly on motor skills tests. In addition, behavior and attention problems were more common in the highly-exposed children.

Researcher Dr. Robin Whyatt said, "Our findings have important public health significance. Prior to the ban, chlorpyrifos was one of the most widely used insecticides for residential pest control across the United States. Despite a recent regulatory ban on residential use of chlorpyrifos in the U.S., agricultural applications continue in the U.S. and abroad."

No Protections For Children Of Farm Workers

Chlorpyrifos is still widely used in U.S. agriculture – on apples, pears, grapes, soybeans, corn, and many other crops. Chlorpyrifos, like other pesticides, can contaminate air, where wind can make it drift away from the fields and orchards where it is applied. A newly released report focused on chlorpyrifos contamination in air near apple orchards in Washington State.

Air testing equipment was set up in the yards of two houses located in different Yakima Valley communities. These were the homes of former and current farm workers and their children. These houses, like many others in this area, were located right next to apple orchards.

Chlorpyrifos was detected in the air every day for three weeks at both locations. On some days (6 days and 8 days) the amount of chlorpyrifos was higher than "acceptable" levels for children's health.

This testing was undertaken by organizations and members of the farm worker community after state and federal agencies refused their requests to set up air monitoring. Although there is strong evidence that drift of chlorpyrifos is widespread, the government agencies dismissed concerns about this air contamination and its health effects.

The December 2006 report, published jointly by the Farm Worker Pesticide Project and Pesticide Action Network North America, generated enormous interest. Some of the report's recommendations are garnering public support.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote an editorial that recommended the establishment of air monitoring in heavy agricultural areas. But even more important, they endorsed substantive change in agriculture. The state should help farmers find alternatives to heavy pesticide use and foster adoption of practices that are healthier for farmers, farm workers, and their communities.

The Washington legislature has already taken a first step. The newly introduced House Bill 1810 proposes to set up air monitoring for pesticide drift so that data can be used to assess health risks for those who are exposed.

 


SOURCES

Study Reveals Exposures to Chlorpyrifos in Pregnancy Adversely Affect Child Development.
Association of Schools of Public Health. ASPH Friday Letter. December 8, 2006.
http://www.asph.org/fridayletter/article_view.cfm?fl_index=1442&fle_index=4618

2007 House Bill 1810 (Creating a project to monitor pesticide drift and its impact.)
Washington Votes. January 29, 2007.
http://washingtonvotes.org/2007-HB-1810

Living food: Potent crops
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial Board. January 7, 2007.
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/298578_pested.html

STUDIES

Rauh, VA et al. Published online Nov. 20, 2006. Impact of prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure on neurodevelopment in the first 3 years of life among inner-city children. [to be published in future issue of the journal Pediatrics] DOI: 10.1542/peds.2006-0338
http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/118/6/e1845

Farm Worker Pesticide Project and Pesticide Action Network North America. December 2006. Poisons on the Wind: Community air monitoring for chlorpyifos in the Yakima Valley.
http://www.fwpp.org/media/?id=49 OR http://www.panna.org/campaigns/docsDrift/POW12-20-06.pdf