Kids today are sicker than they were a generation ago, and according to the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA), pesticides are a part of the reason why.
“From childhood cancers to birth defects and asthma, a wide range of childhood diseases and disorders are on the rise, and public health experts tell us we have a “silent pandemic” of learning disabilities and disorders” they suggest. But these pesticides aren’t just affecting children, their impact is far-reaching, affecting all of us. On average, Americans are exposed to between 10 and 13 pesticide residues on their food and drink every day.
Did you know that 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides are used on our food crops every year? And they don’t just stay where they are sprayed. 56 different pesticides are used on apples, while hot peppers are coated with 97.
And with the introduction of genetically engineered foods in the 1990s, those numbers are going up.
Since the introduction of these genetically engineered products into our food supply, the amount of weed killers used on these crops has increased by over 400 million pounds. This is the same product that we as parents are told to keep out of the reach of our children.
A full report goes into explicit detail about the impact that pesticides and other chemicals being used on our foods can have on our health, and while this information can be painful to learn, it is important to remember that knowledge is power. Here are a few key findings:
- Neurotoxic pesticides are contributing to the rising rates of ADHD, autism, widespread declines in IQ and other measures of cognitive function. Over the last 15 years, the rate of U.S. children being born with some kind of developmental disability has grown by 17%.
- Pesticide exposure also contributes to rising rates of childhood cancer, birth defects and early puberty. Overall incidence of leukemia and childhood brain tumors, the two most common types of childhood cancer, have risen 40% and 50% since 1975. Studies suggest that exposure to pesticides during pregnancy and early childhood are contributing to this trend.
- Emerging science indicates that pesticides may be important contributors to the current epidemic of childhood asthma, obesity and diabetes, and today, more than 7 million children, or about 1 in 10 kids, are affected by asthma, up from 2 million in 1980.
Scientists have understood for decades that children are particularly vulnerable to the harms of pesticide exposure. Quickly growing bodies take in more of everything; they eat, breathe and drink more, pound for pound, than adults. Trends and emerging data show that these harms are real and getting worse, and cannot be explained away through diagnostic criteria or lifestyle choice.
In other words, genetics don’t change this quickly, the environment that our children are living in does. And today, food crops are now hardwired to withstand increasing doses of pesticides, insecticides and weed killers or engineered to produce these insecticidal toxins internally, within the plant itself.
So what’s a parent or caretaker to do? Thankfully, there is a lot. Protecting kids from pesticides starts with us, suggests PANNA. And if you think about it, it truly does. Any easy way to begin is by choosing organic foods for your family. But however you begin, do what you can, where you are, with what you have, so that together, we can create an environment in which are children can thrive – for the sake of our families, our communities and our country.