Pesticides Linked to Sick Kids

July 29, 2005 - 06:03

“Pesticide use in or near U.S. schools sickened more than 2,500 children and school employees over a five-year period, and though most illnesses were mild, their numbers have increased, a nationwide report found,” stated an article from the Associated Press (AP).

Some of the possible chemicals may be insecticides, herbicides, disinfectants and pesticides used to kill pests and diseases on school grounds and nearby farms, according to the report by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and their colleagues the AP stated.

The study covers incidents from 1998-2002, but “lead author Dr. Walter Alarcon said one of the largest recent incidents occurred in May when about 600 students and staff members were evacuated from an Edinburg, Texas, elementary school after pesticides sprayed on a cotton field drifted into the school's air conditioning system. About 30 students and nine staffers developed mild symptoms including nausea and headaches,” said the article.

"The chronic long-term impacts of pesticide exposures have not been comprehensively evaluated; therefore, the potential for chronic health effects from pesticide exposures at schools should not be dismissed," the authors wrote in the study.

However, according to the AP article, “the overall rate of pesticide illnesses in schools is small — 7.4 cases per million children and 27.3 cases per million school employees, the authors said.”

At this point a number of chemical companies commented to the AP that there is very minimal risk to the students from their products.

“The authors tallied reports from three pesticide surveillance systems, including a national database of calls to poison control centers and found that 2,593 students and school employees developed pesticide-related illnesses in the five years studied. Only three illnesses were considered severe,” the article stated.

The AP is reporting that, according to the study, the majority of the illnesses were children. The number of illnesses has risen from 59 to 104 in preschoolers and from 225 to 333 in children 6-17.

"I don't think we want to overwhelm people, but the study does provide evidence that using pesticides at schools is not innocuous and that there are better ways to use pesticides," said study co-author Dr. Geoffrey Calvert.

“The authors said the study underscores the need to reduce pesticide use through pest management programs that typically require schools to use pesticides as a last resort and to implement advance written notification when the chemicals are used. The guidelines also often recommend that spraying in schools or in nearby fields should occur only when students and staffers are not present. Laws in 17 states recommend or require schools to have such programs, according to Jay Feldman, executive director of the Beyond Pesticides advocacy group,” stated the article.

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