Tender ones at risk

Children face increasing threat from garden pesticides

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2001

increased levels of organophosporus pesticides have been found in children living close to gardens where these chemicals are sprayed, says a recent study. The 'National Home and Garden Pesticide Use Survey', conducted by the us Environmental Protection Agency , studied the exposure of children to organosphosphorus pesticides in the Seattle Metropolitan Area of the us .

During the survey, researchers collected urine samples from 110 children aged between 2-5 years living across 96 households. These samples were analysed for six different dialkylphosphate compounds ( daps ) -- which form basic metabolites of the pesticides. The children came from two different types of communities in the region. While 58 children were chosen from households with lower to middle income levels 52 children were chosen for the study from middle to upper class households. Two spot urine samples were collected from each child.

Interviews of the parents were also conducted to gather information on child's age, weight, parental occupation and income level, besides other things. Specific information on the use of garden pesticides six prior to the survey was also sought by the surveyors. Records were made of the type of pesticides used and, where available, the name of the product and other details were also taken into consideration.

Analysis of the urine samples was done using the gas chromatography tech unique. Ninety two percent of the children were found to contain one or the other dap s. Children living in households with a garden had significantly higher diethyl dap concentration levels showing the correlation between garden pesticides and their presence in the children's bodies. Socioeconomic indicators, such as annual household income and housing type, were found not to be correlated with children's exposure to pesticides. Neither age nor sex of the child had any relation to the exposure.

Concern regarding children's exposure to the pesticides has increased in recent years, with the reported association between childhood cancers and pesticide use. Children's daily activities, proximity to floors, carpets, lawns, soil, and the frequency and duration of their hand-to-mouth activity may put them at higher risk for pesticides exposure than adults. Infants and children also differ from adults in their exposure to pesticide residues in foods. They have greater average daily food consumption per unit of body weight than do adults and differ in the specific foods they eat. Moreover, the typical diet of infants and young children is less diverse than that of adults. Tissues, organs, biological systems, and detoxification mechanisms of children are undergoing rapid growth and development, predisposing them to potentially more severe consequences of toxic chemicals. Organophosphorus pesticides have become a special concern for regulatory agencies because of their widespread use, acute toxicity and neurotoxic properties.

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