Kids on the Frontline: How pesticides are undermining the health of rural children

Inputs, Policy & Advocacy

Year of Publication:



Pesticide Action Network North America: Emily C. Marquez, PhD and Kristin S. Schafer, MA with Gabrielle Aldern Kristin VanderMolen, PhD

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. As physiological systems undergo rapid changes from the womb through adolescence, interference from pesticides and industrial chemicals—even at very low levels—can derail the process in ways that lead to significant health harms. For children, the timing of these exposures is often particularly important. At critical moments of development, even very low levels of pesticide exposure can derail biological processes in ways that have harmful, potentially lifelong effects.

Our current system of industrial agriculture and pest control relies on chemical inputs sold by a handful of corporations. These multinational entities wield tremendous control over how we grow our food, from setting research agendas in public institutions to production and sale of farm inputs including seeds, fertilizers and pest management products.

We are increasingly optimistic that the commonsense changes we propose are within reach. As the science linking pesticides with children’s health harms grows ever stronger, awareness of the problem, as well as support for real solutions, continues to grow. In addition, on-the-ground evidence from the U.S. and around the world shows us that implementing our recommendations would boost—rather than undermine—the quality and quantity of food available. We can and must fix this broken system. It’s time to support farming practices that sustain our agricultural economy and produce abundant, healthy food that is accessible to all.

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