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PROTECTING CHILDREN
FROM PESTICIDES AND POISONING

Infants and children may be especially sensitive to health risks posed by pesticides for several reasons:

Pesticides may harm a developing child by blocking the absorption of important food nutrients necessary for normal healthy growth. Another way pesticides may cause harm is if a child's excretory system is not fully developed, the body may not fully remove pesticides. Also, there are "critical periods" in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individual's biological system operates.

For these reasons, and as specifically required under the Food Quality Protection Act (1996), EPA carefully evaluates children's exposure to pesticide residues in and on foods they most commonly eat, i.e., apples and apple juice, orange juice, potatoes, tomatoes, soybean oil, sugar, eggs, pork, chicken and beef. EPA is also evaluating new and existing pesticides to ensure that they can be used with a reasonable certainty of no harm to adults as well as infants and children.


Pesticides and Child Safety

Although pesticides can be beneficial to society, they can be dangerous if used carelessly or if they are not stored properly and out of the reach of children. According to data collected from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 1995 alone, an estimated 79,000 children were involved in common household pesticide-related poisonings or exposures in the United States. An additional 19,837 children were exposed to or poisoned by household chlorine bleach.

A survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding pesticides used in and around the home revealed some significant findings:

Bathrooms and kitchens were cited as the areas in the home most likely to have improperly stored pesticides. Examples of some common household pesticides found in bathrooms and kitchens include roach sprays; chlorine bleach; kitchen and bath disinfectants; rat poison; insect and wasp sprays, repellents and baits; and, flea and tick shampoos and dips for pets. Other household pesticides include swimming pool chemicals and weed killers.

EPA regulates pesticides in the United States under the pesticide law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act). Since 1981, the law has required most residential-use pesticides with a signal word of "danger" or "warning" to be in child-resistant packaging. These are the pesticides which are most toxic to children. Child-resistant packaging is designed to prevent most children under the age of five from gaining access to the pesticide, or at least delay their access. However, individuals must also take precautions to protect children from accidental pesticide poisonings or exposures.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PREVENTING ACCIDENTAL POISONING:

IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY, try to determine what the child was exposed to and what part of the body was affected before you take action, since taking the right action is as important as taking immediate action. If the person is unconscious, having trouble breathing, or having convulsions, give needed first aid immediately. Call 911 or your local emergency service.

If the person is awake, conscious, not having trouble breathing, and not having convulsions, read the label for first aid instructions and contact your local Poison Control Center, physician, 911 or your local emergency number -- remember to act fast because speed is crucial! In most cases, the pesticide products label provides you with a "Statment of Treatment" to follow in emergencies. The appropriate first aid treatment depends on the kind of poisoning that has occurred. If first aid instructions are not available, follow these general guidelines:

GENERAL FIRST AID GUIDELINES:


Ten Tips to Protect Children from Pesticide and Lead Poisonings around the Home

These simple steps can help you save children from environmental hazards around the home:

1. Always store pesticides and other household chemicals, including chlorine bleach, out of children's reach -- preferably in a locked cabinet.

2. Always read directions carefully because pesticide products, household cleaning products, and pet products can be "dangerous" or ineffective if too much or too little is used.

3. Before applying pesticides or other household chemicals, remove children and their toys, as well as pets, from the area. Keep children and pets away until the pesticide has dried or as long as is recommended on the label.

4. If your use of a pesticide or other household chemical is interrupted (perhaps by a phone call), properly reclose the container and remove it from children's reach. Always use household products in child-resistant packaging.

5. Never transfer pesticides to other containers that children may associate with food or drink (like soda bottles), and never place rodent or insect baits where small children can get to them.

6. When applying insect repellents to children, read all directions first; do not apply over cuts, wounds or irritated skin; do not apply to eyes, mouth, hands or directly on the face; and use just enough to cover exposed skin or clothing, but do not use under clothing.

7. Wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers and toys often, and regularly clean floors, window sills, and other surfaces to reduce potential exposure to lead dust.

8. Get your child tested for lead if you suspect he or she has been exposed to lead in either your home or neighborhood.

9. Inquire about lead hazards. When buying or renting a home or apartment built before 1978, the seller or landlord is now required to disclose known lead hazards.

10. If you suspect that lead-based paint has been used in your home or if you plan to remodel or renovate, get your home tested. Do not attempt to remove lead paint yourself. Call 1-(800)-424-LEAD for guidelines.

Written by: Environmental Protection Agency


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