Chemicals + Children
Kids on the Frontline
Kids on the Frontline reflects a rigorous assessment of dozens of independent studies documenting links between pesticide exposure and children’s health harms. It builds on our extensive 2012 report, A Generation in Jeopardy.
The science linking agricultural pesticides to childhood health harms — particularly leukemia, brain tumors and developmental disorders — has grown increasingly strong. While children across the country are exposed in various ways, those living in rural, agricultural communities are on the frontlines of both pesticide exposure and the associated health risks.
Download the report to learn more.
Source : Pesticide Action Network
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Common Insecticides May Be Linked to Kids' Behavior Problems
A new study by researchers in Quebec is one of the first to investigate potential human health effects of pyrethroids, which are used in more than 3,500 commercial products
Insecticides commonly used in households may be associated with behavior problems in children, according to a new study by researchers in Quebec.
The study is one of the first to investigate potential human health effects of pyrethroids, which are used in more than 3,500 commercial products, including flea bombs and roach sprays.
The findings raise some questions about the safety of the compounds, which have replaced other insecticides with known risks to children’s brain development. Exposure to pyrethroids, which kill insects by interfering with their nervous systems, is widespread because they are used inside homes and schools, in municipal mosquito control and on farms.
In the study, the urine of 779 Canadian children between the ages of 6 and 11 was tested, and their parents answered questions about each child’s behavior.
Ninety-seven percent of the children had traces of pyrethroid breakdown products in their urine, and 91 percent had traces of organophosphates, another class of pesticides.
A 10-fold increase in urinary levels of one pyrethroid breakdown product, cis-DCCA, was associated with a doubling in the odds of a child scoring high for parent-reported behavioral problems, such as inattention and hyperactivity.
Another breakdown product, trans-DCCA, was also associated with more behavior problems, although the association was not statistically significant, meaning the finding could be due to chance. The breakdown product, trans- and cis-DCCA, is specific to certain pyrethroids – namely permethrin, cypermethrin and cyfluthrin.
No link was found between behavior scores and levels of organophosphate breakdown products.
The researchers reported that there have been few other studies investigating neurobehavioral outcomes associated with pyrethroids.
Use of pyrethroids has increased dramatically in recent years because they have replaced organophosphate pesticides, which are being phased out due to concerns about children’s health. Prenatal exposure to organophosphates has been linked to neurodevelopment delays, lower IQ scores and attention problems.
Permethrin and other pyrethroids have been widely touted as safer than organophosphates because they are a synthetic adaptation of a compound found naturally in chrysanthemum flowers.
But there is very little data on the potential health effects of pyrethroids in children. One study of 348 mother-child pairs in New York City found lower development scores in toddlers who had been exposed to pyrethroids in the womb. In studies with young laboratory animals, low levels of some pyrethroids have affected nervous system development.
“Children are at greatest risk from pesticide toxicity because the developing brain is more susceptible to neurotoxicants and they interact with their environment in particular ways such as frequent hand-to-mouth behavior and outside play,” the study authors wrote.
One limitation of the study was the small number of children that scored high for behavioral problems – only 69, or 6.8 percent of all those sampled. Pesticides also may be metabolized quickly in the body, so a single urine sample may not accurately represent a child’s exposure.
The study does not prove that pyrethroids cause behavior problems, but the authors said their findings suggest that more research is needed to determine their potential effects on children.
Source : Scientific American
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Study Links Chemicals Widely Found in Plastics and Processed Food to Elevated Blood Pressure in Children and Teens
Plastic additives known as phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) are odorless, colorless and just about everywhere: They turn up in flooring, plastic cups, beach balls, plastic wrap, intravenous tubing and—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the bodies of most Americans. Once perceived as harmless, phthalates have come under increasing scrutiny. A growing collection of evidence suggests dietary exposure to phthalates (which can leech from packaging and mix with food) may cause significant metabolic and hormonal abnormalities, especially during early development. Now, new research published this Wednesday in The Journal of Pediatrics suggests that certain types of phthalates could pose another risk to children: compromised heart health. Drawing on data from a nationally representative survey of nearly 3,000 children and teens, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington and Penn State University School of Medicine, have documented for the first time a connection between dietary exposure to DEHP (di-2-ethyhexylphthalate), a common class of phthalate widely used in industrial food production, and elevated systolic blood pressure, a measure of pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts.
“Phthalates can inhibit the function of cardiac cells and cause oxidative stress that compromises the health of arteries. But no one has explored the relationship between phthalate exposure and heart health in children” says lead author Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at NYU Langone Medical Center. “We wanted to examine the link between phthalates and childhood blood pressure in particular given the increase in elevated blood pressure in children and the increasing evidence implicating exposure to environmental exposures in early development of disease.”
Hypertension is clinically defined as a systolic blood-pressure reading above 140 mm Hg. It’s most common in people over 50 years old, although the condition is becoming increasingly prevalent among children owing to the global obesity epidemic. Recent national surveys indicate that 14 percent of American adolescents now have pre-hypertension or hypertension. “Obesity is driving the trend but our findings suggest that environmental factors may also be a part of the problem,” says Dr. Trasande. “This is important because phthalate exposure can be controlled through regulatory and behavioral interventions.”
Researchers from NYU School of Medicine, the University of Washington and Penn State University School of Medicine examined six years of data from a nationally representative survey of the U.S. population administered by the National Centers for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Phthalates were measured in urine samples using standard analysis techniques. Controlling for a number of potential confounders, including race, socioeconomic status, body mass index, caloric intake and activity levels, the researchers found that every three-fold increase in the level of breakdown products of DEHP in urine correlated with a roughly one-millimeter mercury increase in a child’s blood pressure. “That increment may seem very modest at an individual level, but on a population level such shifts in blood pressure can increase the number of children with elevated blood pressure substantially,” says Dr. Trasande. “Our study underscores the need for policy initiatives that limit exposure to disruptive environmental chemicals, in combination with dietary and behavioral interventions geared toward protecting cardiovascular health.”
Source : Newswise
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Common Insecticide May Harm Boys' Brains More Than Girls
A widely used pesticide – banned in homes but still commonly used on farms – appears to harm boys’ developing brains more than girls’, according to a new study of children in New York City.
In boys, exposure to chlorpyrifos in the womb was associated with lower scores on short-term memory tests compared with girls exposed to similar amounts.
The study is the first to find gender differences in how the insecticide harms prenatal development. Scientists say the finding adds to evidence that boys’ brains may be more vulnerable to some chemical exposures.
“This suggests that the harmful effects of chlorpyrifos are stronger among boys, which indicates that perhaps boys are more vulnerable to this type of exposure,” said Virginia Rauh, a perinatal epidemiologist at Columbia University and co-author of the study published in July.
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, a powerful class of pesticide that has toxic effects on nervous systems. It was widely used in homes and yards to kill cockroaches and other insects, but in 2001 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned its residential use because of health risks to children. Since then, levels inside U.S. homes have dropped [PDF], but residue remains in many homes. In addition, many developing countries still use the pesticide indoors.
Known by the Dow trade name Lorsban, chlorpyrifos is still sprayed on some crops, including fruit trees and vegetables, and also is used on golf courses and for mosquito control. About 10 million pounds of chlorpyrifos are applied to agricultural fields annually, according to the EPA.
“There’s mounting evidence now from epidemiological studies that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides, and chlorpyrifos in particular, may be associated with detriments with IQ in children,” said Kim Harley, an environmental epidemiologist with the University of California, Berkeley who has studied effects of pesticide exposure on children in California farm towns. She was not involved in the New York City study.
The environmental group Earthjustice has sued the EPA in an effort to ban all remaining uses of chlopyrifos.
“The exposures are to farmworkers and farmworker families, and people who live in those rural areas that are abutting the fields where chlorpyrifos is applied,” said Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles.
The 2007 lawsuit is still pending, although the EPA announced last month that it will require reductions in application rates and buffers to protect children and other bystanders. An EPA spokesperson said that the agency is re-evaluating chlorpyrifos and expects to make a decision in 2014.
Representatives of DowAgroSciences, a major manufacturer of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, did not return requests seeking comment.
The 335 pairs of mothers and children in the new study were not farmworkers, but are part of a large group of Latino and African American children from low-income neighborhoods of Northern Manhattan and the South Bronx. Columbia University researchers have been tracking more than 700 of these kids since they were born, between 1998 and 2006. Children there have a history of health problems, including asthma rates that are among the nation’s highest, and low birth weight. Many were born before the residential ban on chlorpyrifos.
An earlier study of the children found that chlorpyrifos was linked to delayed mental and motor skill development even after controlling for poverty, dilapidated housing and other community factors. The scientists, in a more detailed follow-up, then found that IQs and memories were reduced in 7 year olds with higher prenatal exposure. Those with the highest exposures scored on average 5.3 points lower on a short-term memory test, and 2.7 points lower on an IQ test, than children with the lowest exposures.
In the new study, published last month in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology, umbilical cord blood was collected from the newborns, who were born before and slightly after the 2001 chlorpyrifos restrictions. When the kids were 3 years old, the researchers studied how well the mothers nurtured and educationally stimulated them. Then, at age 7, the children’s short-term memory ¬¬¬was tested, for example, by having them repeat a sequence of numbers. Memory is an important component of IQ tests.
Chlorpyrifos exposure had a larger association with working memory scores in the boys, who averaged three points lower than the girls with similar exposures, the study found.
“There are adverse effects overall, but you see that the effects are bigger in boys,” Rauh said. “The notion is that boys might be more vulnerable, for whatever reason.”
The researchers also looked to see if the parents could make up for the memory deficiencies. When the kids were 3 years old, the researchers measured the mom’s attentiveness, displays of affection, ability to control her negative reactions and other parenting skills. The study found “in terms of working memory, males benefit more from a nurturing environment than females,” the researchers wrote.
Rauh said the findings suggest that boys seemed to be “modestly” more influenced by environmental factors, whether chemical (chlorpyrifos) or social (the mother).
“It suggests that there may be some room for intervention,” Rauh said. “There’s a little wiggle room there, and that’s the good news.”
Why chlorpyrifos might affect boys more than girls is not fully understood, but a 2012 study of rats found that the pesticide reduced testosterone, which has a critical role in male brain development.
The new finding is consistent with what is known about how other chemicals affect boys more than girls, said David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany.
“There’s such a variety of different chemicals that all do the same thing,” Carpenter said. “They reduce IQ, they appear to shorten the attention span and reduce the ability to deal with frustration.”
Lead, for example, seems to cause a greater IQ deficit in boys than girls, and some evidence suggests that polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, may have similar consequences, Carpenter said.
Previous research has shown that low to moderate exposure to chlorpyrifos during pregnancy can lead to irreversible changes in a child’s brain. According to a 2012 study of the New York City children, magnetic resonance imaging of 40 children, from about 6 to 11 years old, found that those with high exposures had more abnormalities in regions of the brain associated with memory. They also were significantly more likely than children exposed to low levels to experience attention problems and delays in cognitive and motor skills [PDF].
The new study is the first to measure chlorpyrifos in umbilical cord blood, which unequivocally shows if a mother and her fetus were exposed. Researchers do not know how those kids’ exposures, which occurred between 1998 and 2006, compare with levels in kids today because there are no data for comparison.
Dana Barr of Emory University, an expert in chemical exposure and a co-author of the new study, said chlorpyrifos exposure in the New York City children apparently has declined. The researchers did not detect it in the umbilical cord blood of babies enrolled in the study after the 2001 ban.
Data from California, which keeps detailed records of annual pesticide use, show that chlorpyrifos use on farm fields decreased 23 percent between 2001 and 2010. It is sprayed on corn, cotton, citrus and nut trees, alfalfa, grapes and other crops. Organophosphate exposure has been shown to have similar effects on children from farmworker families. In California’s Salinas Valley, Latino children whose mothers had the highest exposures to organophosphates, including chlorpyrifos, had a 7-point drop in IQ compared with children of moms with the lowest exposures.
“I think there’s no reason to believe that the exposure levels are very different” between the farm and the urban communities before the residential ban, Rauh said.
Virginia Ruiz, director of occupational and environmental health for Farmworker Justice, said chlorpyrifos is one of the most dangerous pesticides that farmworkers are exposed to. Her group is pushing for an end to all uses as soon as possible.
“Most farmworkers are foreign-born immigrants and have low levels of education and English proficiency,” Ruiz said. “Farmworkers don’t get a lot of education on the chemicals they’re working around.”
Source : Scientific American
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Endosulfan Pesticide Linked to Blood Cancers Children
High levels of endosulfan, a highly toxic pesticide which has been widely used in cashew nut and other cash crop plantations, have been found in the bone marrow of children suffering from blood cancers in the areas using the pesticide.
Children who had endosulfan in their bone marrow had 7.5 times more risk of developing blood-related cancer compared to those with no detectable pesticide in the bone marrow, scientists said. Bone marrow acts as a factory of blood cells.
The study, published in the journal Indian Pediatrics, was carried out by scientists from MS Ramaiah Medical College, Bangalore, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, Fr Muller Medical College, Mangalore and Manipal University, Manipal.
Endosulfan is a pesticide which is classified as highly toxic. More than 74 countries have already banned endosulfan and around 20 countries have asked for the ban.
Since endosulfan is a persistent pollutant, its harms are expected to manifest even in future generations of the exposed population.
'This study is the first of its kind where bone marrow samples of children have been subjected to analysis for pesticide levels and this may serve as the basis for future larger studies,' scientists said.
'Greater awareness of the toxic effects and improper use of pesticides needs to be created among the public. Siblings of children with leukaemia may need to be screened for pesticide levels to prevent chronic long term exposure in the future,' the scientists said.
The study involved 26 patients in the age group of one to 15 years with bloodrelated cancer and an equal number of patients suffering from other blood-related disorders, but not cancers.
The children were undergoing treatment in hospitals of a medical college in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka.
The study was carried over an 18 month period from September 2006 to March 2008.
All the children who had high endosulfan levels in the bone marrow were from areas, which were or are still exposed to the pesticide.
Children with blood cancer had raised levels of endosulfan in the bone marrow compared to those without.
Six out of 26 children with blood cancer tested positive for endosulfan in the bone marrow against one out of 26 children who did not have blood cancer.
Source : Daily Mail
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Pesticides and Children
The Pesticide Action Network have another informative article on the affects of pesticides on children, please read what PAN have to say on the subject below
When it comes to pesticides, children are among the most vulnerable. Pound for pound, they drink 2.5 times more water, eat 3-4 times more food, and breathe 2 times more air. They therefore absorb a higher concentration of pesticides than do adults.
Infants and children also face unique exposure because of how they interact with the world: they crawl on the ground, and put things in their mouths - including their hands. They also face exposure during critical windows in the womb and via breast milk.
Developing Brains & Bodies Since they grow so fast, infants and young children are more susceptible to the effects of pesticide exposure than adults. Their developing brains and bodies are in the midst of complex and fragile developmental processes that regulate tissue growth and organ development - these developmental processes can be irreversibly derailed by pesticide exposure.
Drawings by preschoolers exposed to pesticides (Valley) compared to those by preschoolers not exposed (Foothills). See "Developmental Delay" below.
Research indicates that children exposed to pesticides either in utero, or during other critical periods face significant health risks including higher incidence of:
- Birth defects
- Childhood brain cancers
- Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)
- Neurodevelopmental delays
- Endocrine dysruption
Health Effects: the State of the Science Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder & dietary pesticide exposure :: A May 2010 study out of Harvard shows that even tiny, allowable amounts of a common pesticide class can have dramatic effects on brain chemistry. Organophosphate pesticides (OP’s) are among the most widely used pesticides in the U.S., they work by interfering with brain signaling in insects. OPs have long been understood to be particularly toxic for children, but this is the first study to examine their effects across a representative population with average levels of exposure.
Childhood Brain Cancer :: Brain cancer is the second most common type of cancer in children, and it has been on the rise, but why it develops remains unclear. This February 2009 study finds that children who live in homes where their parents use pesticides are twice as likely to develop brain cancer versus those that live in residences in which no pesticides are used.
Developmental Delay :: A study of Yaqui Indian children in Mexico sharing similar genetic and cultural backgrounds with one significant difference - those living in one area were regularly exposed to pesticides in an agricultural community. Researchers found that an array of impaired brain and nervous system functions, including social behaviors and the ability to draw, are correlated to pesticide exposure during development.
Birth Defects :: This April 2009 study reports that birth defect rates in the United States are highest among women conceiving in the spring and summer, a time period correlated with increased levels of pesticides in surface water.
Autism Spectrum Disorder :: Researchers found a sixfold increase in risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for children of women who were exposed to organocholorine pesticides, this study was one of the first to link in utero pesticide exposure to ASD.
Brain Development :: Many developmental effects are not measurable at birth, or even later in life, because brain and nervous system disturbances are expressed in terms of how an individual behaves and functions. Reviewing the literature on pesticide exposure at various points in neurological development, this article finds that current pesticide risk assessment strategies are ill-equipped to measure or protect against the many kinds of exposure faced by developing fetuses, infants and children.
Developmental Neuroxicity :: Results indicate that chlorpyrifos (CPF) affects serotonin—a neurotransmitter involved in brain development—in several ways during discrete critical gestational periods. These effects are likely to contribute to the noncholinergic component of CPF's developmental neurotoxicity.
Developmental Neurotoxicity :: Fetal and childhood exposures to widely used organophosphate pesticides, especially chlorpyrifos (CPF), have raised concerns about developmental neurotoxicity. This study finds a wide window of vulnerability of cholinergic systems to CPF, extending from prenatal through postnatal periods, occurring independently of adverse effects on general cellular neurotoxicity.
Developmental Effects Beyond Neurotoxicity: Immediate & Delayed-Onset Effects on Heart & Liver Function :: The fetal and neonatal neurotoxicity of chlorpyrifos (CPF) and related insecticides is a major concern. Developmental effects of CPF involve mechanisms over and above cholinesterase inhibition, notably events in cell signaling that are shared by nonneural targets. This study finds that the developmental toxicity of CPF extends beyond the nervous system, to include cell signaling cascades that are vital to heart and liver functioning.
Low Birth Weight :: Pregnant women in upper Manhattan who were heavily exposed to two common insecticides had smaller babies than their neighbors. Recent restrictions on the two substances quickly lowered exposure and increased babies' size.
Source : Pesticide Action Network
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