As parents, we have plenty on our minds as we settle into a new school year — new teachers, carpools, sibling rivalry — the list goes on. We really shouldn't have to add this: apples and peaches we're packing in our kids' lunchbags may expose them to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide known to lower IQs and increase risk of ADHD. I'm sorry, what??
If you ask me, the following scenario makes much more sense: Fruits and veggies help make kids healthy and smart. Farming with chemicals like chlorpyrifos that harm children is unthinkable. And what we pack for lunch doesn't risk damage to our child's nervous system.
Health harms are very clear
Scientists have known for more than a decade that chlorpyrifos is especially harmful to young minds and bodies. This is why it was banned from bug-killing home products way back in 2001.
Recent studies have only made the case stronger. Researchers now say that as many as ¼ of all U.S. children may have IQs several points lower due to eating foods treated with chlorpyrifos and similar pesticides. That's 25% of our kids that will find school — and life — more of a challenge than they otherwise would have. Yikes.
Our public officials are finally taking another look at the health risks of chlorpyrifos (it took a lawsuit by PAN and our partners back in 2007 to get their attention!). Please add your name to PAN's petition urging EPA to act sooner than later to protect our children from this dangerous chemical.
Kids near farms get double dose
Ten million pounds of chlorpyrifos are still used on agricultural fields each year. The vast majority of us — including children — carry breakdown products of the pesticide in our bodies.
But children in farm communities are at even higher risk, as they often get a dangerous double dose. Not only are they exposed to chlorpyrifos on food, they also breathe in particles that drift into their classrooms and homes from nearby farms. Children of farmworkers are exposed even more, as parents sometimes carry residues of the pesticide home at the end of the day on clothing and shoes.
My husband and I pack the lunchbags in our house with organic fruits and veggies whenever we can, and studies do show this helps a lot to reduce kids' risk of exposure. It also supports farmers who don't cause pesticide drift that can harm kids in rural schools and homes.
But honestly? I'd rather scratch pesticides like chlorpyrifos off my worry list altogether.
This post appeared previously on GroundTruth.