Today at the New Hampshire Statehouse, a committee is discussing the health effects of children’s exposure to pesticides. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is a part of the conversation, urging legislators and opinion leaders to stop using pesticides at public play spaces such as school play grounds, and to use safer alternatives. Let’s take a minute to answer some questions (pay attention, there might be a quiz):
What exactly are pesticides?
Pesticides are used to control or kill weeds, bacteria, rodents, fleas and ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects or pests. They are made up of more than 1,000 active chemical ingredients and come in different forms: liquids, aerosols, baits, powders, concentrates, and fumigants.
Who makes sure pesticides are safe?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for regulating pesticide use, but their regulations have weaknesses that allow hazardous chemicals on the market. These exposures are often sufficient enough to cause illness.
How do I become exposed to pesticides?
You can encounter pesticides in your everyday activities: residue in water, food, dust, homes, schools, commercial buildings, parks, and other recreation areas. Chemicals may be eaten, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. You can also be exposed at work especially if you are an agriculture worker (farmer), landscaper, exterminator, or livestock breeder.
What are my risks?
Virtually all of us are exposed to some level of pesticides. The risk of pesticide exposure depends on the toxicity of the chemical and the level, timing, and duration of exposure.
Severe poisoning requires a sufficiently large and concentrated exposure — people who work with pesticides every day have the highest risk. However, it is more common that people have repeated lower level exposures, which can still lead to health issues such as birth defects, cancer, and infertility.
How can I protect myself?
- Wash and/or peel ALL fruits and vegetables before eating and buy organic food, if possible.
- Avoid spraying pesticides inside, in the garden, and on pets. Keep unwanted insects and pests out of your home by sealing cracks and holes around doors, windows, and baseboards, and seal food in containers.
- Use baits and traps rather than sprays, powders, or pesticide strips. For some alternatives, go to www.pesticide.org/factsheets.html#alternatives.
- Combing hair for lice is the most important aspect of head lice control. For more information on managing lice, go to www.epa.gov/pesticides/ipm/schoolipm/chap-11.pdf.
- If you work around pesticides, protect your home and family by removing your uniform, shoes, and clothing before entering your home. Be sure to shower before caring for children.
Let us know how you keep your family safe from pesticides.