When talking about limiting kids’ contact with pesticides, I’ve been accused of sounding like a broken record. But the reason behind my rant is so important: Pesticide exposure has been linked to asthma, allergies, neurological disorders, autism and even cancer—which is now the leading cause of death by disease for American kids.
Many people don’t know that most of our children’s pesticide exposure comes from the foods that they eat—but just one day of eating differently can completely remove many pesticides from their bodies.
And many more don’t realize that household exposure to pesticides—from pest eradication products and food—is now shown to have the same negative effects on pregnancy as cigarette smoking: lower birth weight and premature birth.
Unfortunately, just as doctors 50 years ago didn’t fault pregnant moms for smoking, today they don’t spend a lot of time talking with patients about pesticide exposure. I hope that as we all become more aware of the stakes, that too will change.
50 years ago, doctors didn’t fault pregnant moms for smoking; today they’re just beginning to warn about pesticides, linked to cancer and more. Take these steps to get them out of your life, for good! Here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics had to say on the subject: “Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems. Recognizing and reducing problematic exposures will require attention to current inadequacies in medical training, public health tracking, and regulatory action on pesticides.”
With that in mind, here are some quick and easy ways to avoid pesticides in the home:
1. According to the Environmental Working Group, you can reduce your family’s pesticide exposure by 80 percent, just by avoiding (or choosing organic) “dirty dozen” foods such as apples, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers and grapes.
2. When in doubt, go for things you can peel by hand. For example, when faced with a non-organic fruit bowl, choose an orange over an apple, which can contain as many as 48 different pesticide residues.
3. Wash with soap-and-water, which the FDA says is just as effective as pesticide antibacterials like triclosan in fighting germs. Can’t get to a faucet? Look for alcohol based sanitizing products that depend on natural ingredients to keep hands clean on the go.
4. Use tried-and-true tricks like red pepper flakes for ants and soapy wine traps for fruit flies to deal with pests. Keeping your counters and cabinets crumb-free helps to deter bugs in the first place.
5. Got pets? Rather than using a pesticide-heavy collar, which has been associated with childhood cancer, look for those that depend on citronella and rosemary, which repel fleas, and/or naturally derived pyrethrin (from chrysanthemums) or d-Limonene (from citrus).
6. Finally, I’m not a big believer in the idea that humans absorb pesticides from clothes—just washing before you wear solves most of that problem. But I also know that a majority of the insecticides used in cotton production are classified as hazardous by the World Wildlife Fund, and that on a global scale, cotton accounts for 11% of the world’s pesticides—more than any other single crop. With that big picture in mind, choosing organic clothing—and/or limiting consumption through thrifting and swapping—just makes sense.
Follow these steps—and share them with your friends and family! If we’re all singing the same song, maybe this record won’t sound so broken, after all.