Daily News Archives
From June 27, 2005

Study on Pesticide Impacts on Children’s Mental Development Continues
(Beyond Pesticides June 27, 2005)
University of North Dakota (UND) researchers are beginning the second year of a two-year study aimed at finding out the effects of pesticide exposure on children's cognitive and mental development. The two-year study is funded in part by a $100,000 grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Science.

The UND study involves children between the ages of 7 and 12 living next to farms. This information will be compared to children living outside of the farm community area. To date, Dr. Petros stated he was pleased with the interest of the community. The first year’s study included 23 children and this year’s study has increased to 50 participants. The tests include cognitive observing for both attention and memory as well as blood and urine sample. These tests are being conducted during the summers at the height of the farming season to observe the highest level of pesticide effects. Households are also being surveyed on household product use in addition to the tests.

According to Dr. Tom Petros, a professor of psychology, he and other scientists from the school’s Center for Rural Health and the Department of Biology planed this study due to the limited knowledge available on pesticide exposure on children residing on or next to farms. Dr. Petros and his colleagues are not alone in their concern of the impacts of pesticide exposure on children living near farms. A lawsuit was filed on June 7, 2005 against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to protect a generation of America’s most vulnerable children that face increased risk from exposure to hazardous pesticides. The suit was filed on behalf of the children by a coalition of farm workers, environmental and public health groups, charging the agency with ignoring the special risk to children growing up surrounded by the swirl of chemical poisons on farms. The plaintiffs charge that EPA has failed to consider farm kids’ heightened exposure to risks when setting allowable pesticide standards for food (See Daily News).

While there is limited data available especially in the United States, Greenpeace India released a study that found a strong link between pesticide exposure and cognitive abilities among farmers' children in India. The study revealed serious mental development disorders that ranged from severely impaired analytical abilities, motor skills, concentration and memory among the children in the chemical-intensive cotton belts of India (See Daily News). The Greenpeace study echoed the findings of Dr. Elizabeth Guillette who studied children of the Yaqui Valley. The Yaqui Valley is one of Mexico's largest agricultural areas and has had high pesticide use since the 1950s. Dr. Guillette's study compared these children to those of a town in the foothills, which is nearly identical except it has no agricultural industry and virtually no pesticide use. The children exhibited significant and disturbing neurological differences; the valley children are far behind those of the foothills in physical coordination, energy and learning capabilities.

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