Pesticides are used in various products that may jeopardize your child’s health in many ways, warned Healthychildren.org, a website powered by pediatricians and trusted by parents. For example, exposing your child to pesticides may lead to attention and learning problems, including cancer.
During pregnancy, pesticides may entail an increased risk of birth defects, low birth weight, and fetal death. But you can do something to protect them from the harmful exposure of pesticides regardless of where they live or play.
Knowledge and Behavior of Pesticide Use Among Caregivers In Rural China (2019)
Yuanying Deng and colleagues of Springer Link, a provider of scientific documents from journals and more, surveyed a total of 612 caregivers of rural children one to six years, with 464 questionnaires deemed suitable for the study. The authors found that caregivers live in mountainous (39.4%), lake (39.2%), and hilly areas (21.3%). 65.3% of households had left-behind children while only 34.7% of caregivers were the parents of the children. 41.9% of caregivers were of middle school or higher education level and 45.4% of caregivers had a household income of less than $297.
50% of caregivers relied on relatives and friends for guidance with regard to choosing which pesticides to use, followed by point-of-sale merchants in shops selling farming supplies and technicians at the Department of Agriculture (40.8%). Other sources were advertisements on the radio, television, and internet (9.2%). 42.5% of participants said they read the manufacturer's ’instructions before applying the pesticide.
Some respondents believed reading the instructions was unnecessary because they already knew how to use it. Others, however, could not read due to illiteracy. Meanwhile, only 29.7% had received education about the adverse effects of pesticides on health and the correct use of pesticides. 57.8% were aware that pesticides could enter the body through the skin, 58.3% knew that pesticide exposure could cause cancer in children, and 64.4% knew that it could to hyperactivity in children.
98.8% of respondents knew that pesticide poisoning could lead to a visit to the hospital, but a smaller proportion of caregivers were aware of other measures such as taking off clothes (11%), removing pesticide residue (11.5%), and checking the pesticide name (6.8%). Regarding their use of pesticides and measures to safeguard children from exposure, 42.5% of respondents read the label before using the pesticide and store pesticides (65.1%) and spraying tools (59.4%) in a high place. Only 10.8% stored them in a high place.
7.4% of caregivers wore protective clothing when applying pesticides while 82.3% wore long-sleeve clothing. Moreover, 21.4% eat, drink, or smoked cigarettes when spraying pesticides. 94.2% washed their hands while 80.7% took a bath right away after applying pesticides. There is a need for caregivers in rural China to be continuously provided with education and training in pesticide safety, the researchers asserted.
Why Are Kids More Vulnerable to Pesticide Exposure?
They are more at risk of pesticide exposure as children’s internal organs are developing and maturing. Kids can come into contact with pesticides stored or applied in their homes, backyards, parks, schools, child care centers, and more. Further, they are more likely to be exposed because children have the habit of putting their hands in their mouths and crawl and play on grass or in spaces that might contain pesticides. Pesticides can be found in food, rodent control products, pet products, insect repellants, and lawn and garden care products
How Does Pesticide Poisoning Occur?
Poisons are absorbed through the skin, by the mouth, or by breathing in sprays, dusts, or vapors. Hence, it is possible for either your or your child to be poisoned if you apply the product or are present during the application of the pesticide. Poisoning can also occur when you or your child touches contaminated grass, shoes, etc. or puts contaminated objects in the mouth.
Symptoms of poisoning may be similar to that of the flu such as headaches, dizziness or weakness, muscle twitching, skin rashes, eye burning, change in the overall level of alertness, and difficulty breathing. If you suspect that your child has any of the aforementioned symptoms, call the Poison Control Centers or your physician.
How Do I Reduce My Child’s Exposure to Pesticides?
1. Get Rid of Traces of Pesticides in Food
Washing and scrubbing them under running water reduces any traces of pesticides on the surface of fruits and vegetables, according to the US Environmental Agency, an independent executive agency of the US. Organic products have been found to contain less pesticides, which entails that the product has a potentially lower risk of exposure to drug-resistant bacteria. Nevertheless, it is recommended to have your child consume a variety of produce, be it conventional or organic.
2. Store Chemicals in a Safe Place
Keep common household pesticides out of reach by placing them at a high place or in a locked cabinet, as advised by independent agency Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Avoid putting pesticides in containers that could be associated with food or drink. Examples of household pesticides are bath and kitchen disinfectants and sanitizers, roach sprays or baits, weed killers, and swimming pool chemicals.
3. Read the Label and Keep Kids (and Pets) Away
Pesticides, household cleaning products, and pet products can be dangerous or ineffective if too little or too much is applied. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully before using the product. Before applying the pesticide, ensure that your child and pets are away from the area until the pesticide has dried for a period of time, depending on the product’s instructions.
4. Avoid Using Bug Bombs or Broad Spraying Pesticides
As much as possible, try to use chemical-free pest control products or the least toxic method for addressing household and garden pest problems. If you need to use chemicals, it is recommended to use less-toxic alternatives like boric acid in crevices or bait stations and gels to reduce your child’s exposure to pesticides, according to AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), an American professional association of pediatricians in Itasca, Illinois. However, simple actions such as cleaning your house, taking out the trash, getting rid of sources of moisture, and storing food properly can help minimize pesticide use.
Children can be exposed to pesticides if parents do not take precautionary measures. This can include maintaining a clean home, washing fruits and vegetables under running water, and avoiding bug bombs or broad spraying pesticides. If their children are suspected to exhibit symptoms of poisoning, they should consult a doctor immediately.