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3 Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Exposure to Pesticides

reduce your child's pesticide exposure

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report recommending that parent’s dramatically limit their children’s exposure to pesticides. Why? Because children who are routinely exposed to pesticides are at a greater risk for “pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems.”

Don’t think your child is exposed all that often?

Think again. The report says, “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity.”

Daily. Did that word make you gasp? It made me gasp. How are our children exposed that frequently?

The report continues:

Children encounter pesticides daily in air, food, dust, and soil and on surfaces through home and public lawn or garden application, household insecticide use, application to pets, and agricultural product residues.

For many children, diet may be the most influential source, as illustrated by an intervention study that placed children on an organic diet (produced without pesticide) and observed drastic and immediate decrease in urinary excretion of pesticide metabolites.
(source)

Diet may be the most influential source.

So, that would mean they’re recommending that we feed our children organic produce, right?

This, just a month after they posted a report saying that the benefit of feeding your child organic food was negligible.

So, which is it?

In the end, I don’t really care. What I do care about is reducing my child’s exposure to pesticides. Here’s my own strategy.

#1 — Eat Organic Produce

I don’t necessarily mean certified organic, either. A number of my local farmers grow chemical-free food in ways that go far beyond organic certification standards, creatively tending their plot of earth with super smart methods that build top soil, produce beautiful crops, and do it all without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.

Yet, they’re not certified organic. They say it’s too costly or involves too much paper work.

Want to know if a farmer uses chemical pesticides or fertilizers?

Ask!

Every farmer I ever met has been downright proud to brag to me about his or her farming practices. Yes, that even goes for farmers who plant genetically-modified corn or cotton or spray their crops with pesticides.

Farmers are a proud, thoughtful lot. They’re hardworking. They’re going to tell it to you exactly like it is.

Most are happy to have you visit the farm and bring your children in tow. They’re an open book.

If a farmer isn’t open about their farming practices, then don’t buy from them. The old mantra still applies:

know your farmer know your food

If you can’t afford to switch to entirely organic produce, then at least stay away from the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen. These are the produce that consistently test with the highest levels of pesticide residue. Opt to buy these guys organic, if you can. This year’s Dirty Dozen are:

    1. Apples
    2. Celery
    3. Sweet bell peppers
    4. Peaches
    5. Strawberries
    6. Nectarines
    7. Grapes
    8. Spinach
    9. Lettuce
    10. Cucumbers
    11. Blueberries
    12. Potatoes

#2 — Drink Purified Water

While the AAP report didn’t specifically address this, I will. It is a well established fact that we’ve got pesticides in our tap water. Pesticide residues leach into our water supply from farms, homes, city parks, you name it.

In fact, just a few days ago yet another news story reported that the pesticides in our tap water may be linked to an increased risk of food allergies.

My point? Everyone knows there are pesticides in our tap water! Yet, we still keep drinking it. Or, we filter it with insufficient filters.

Think you filter your tap water well enough with your pitcher?

Please think again.

Most pitcher filters only minimally reduce a few heavy metals and some chlorine. Their goal is to make your tap water taste better, not to actually purify your water!

You need to buy an actual purifier, not just a filter.

(Where to buy water purifiers)

#3 — Avoid Pesticides in Your Home & Garden

I understand you may want a beautiful lawn. So do I.

I get that you want your kids to play in a place that’s free of ant piles or fleas. So do I.

But there are natural ways to go about getting it.

Buy an organic and natural fertilizer from your nearest natural garden center. Use compost in your garden. Buy some ladybugs and let them loose in your garden to munch on those aphids. Spray beneficial nematodes on your lawn in the spring so they can eat ant and grub and flea and termite larvae before they hatch.

You get the idea.

Have even better ideas?

Sound off in the comments below! Let’s help each other out.

(top photo by mikehummel, bottom photo by reway2007)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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17 Responses to 3 Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Exposure to Pesticides
  1. Katha Jackson
    December 7, 2012 | 12:46 pm

    I can’t find resources for water purifiers on your site. Where is it listed?

    • KristenM
      December 7, 2012 | 1:27 pm

      It’s under the Kitchen Tools & Appliances category. Also, do you have an ad blocker enabled or javascript disabled? In order to view the listings on the Resources page, you’ll need to disable your ad blocker and make sure javascript is enabled. Otherwise, the page won’t function.

  2. Shannon Cline
    December 7, 2012 | 12:53 pm

    Wear orangic clothing, at the very least well used that has been washed multiple times? Would that work?

    Steer clear of the popular strawberry patches and apple orchards that are magnets for field trips. I was labled a party pooper last year when I refused to allow my kindergartner to frolic in a strawberry patch for 8 hours on a field trip.

  3. Rebecca
    December 7, 2012 | 1:01 pm

    And the beauty products!! Filled with toxins: Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, medications, and even clothing that is sprayed with the crap that makes it anti-inflammable (especially for nightgowns and pajamas). They have to test to make sure it meets the minimum inflammability ratings, but do not test the maximum, so sometimes tests show that it has more than 1,000x more chemical than is required at the minimum level. YIKES!

    • Tere Yons
      December 7, 2012 | 11:52 pm

      I double this one. People literally slather pure chemicals on their bodies on a daily basis, and all with the idea that it is good for them—hello sunscreen! I know with kids it is especially difficult because no one wants a sunburned child, but I think sunscreen* is very, very bad (*note the differences between sunscreen and sunBLOCK!). Let’s call it what it is: creamy plastic that soaks into the skin and absorbs the sun’s rays. Just the physics of it says that that creamy something has to be something fishy. My only answer is limiting to short bursts in the sun, lots of shade and long sleeved clothing (linen!). Also, I use a variety of vegetable oils mixed with drinkable aloe vera gel as my daily moisturizing regimen and although contrary to what most would think, I feel like I burn less than I used to…

      Main point though: beauty products is a big one for ALL family members!

      • Mary B
        December 25, 2012 | 11:31 am

        You may want to look into the supplement Astaxanthin. It is an antioxidant, the same stuff that makes salmon pink. My understanding, from reading several articles on the subject, is that if one has sufficient levels of this in their body, they will not sunburn (or at least will take longer to burn). We don’t use sunscreen chemicals. My kids play outdoors and have not burned. I do have a “safer” natural sunblock product purchased from our local co-op for the rare occasions when we would spend nearly the whole day in the sun (beach, county fair, amusement park, etc.) – these type of activities are the only time it is used.

  4. Nourished for Free
    December 7, 2012 | 6:06 pm

    It is amazing how much pesticide we intake on a daily basis. From the meat we eat (CAFO meat that is fed grains sprayed with pesticides), to produce, to our water – even during the summer, most cities will do sweeping pesticide sprays to control mosquitos! Just like everything else – like you said – know your food, know where you get everything you put in or on your body. Thanks for a great post, Jill!

  5. Johanna
    December 8, 2012 | 11:09 am

    I once read that one of the best ways to keep harmful chemicals out of your home is to always remove your shoes – and ask everyone else too also. It’s easy and free. :)

  6. Martine
    December 9, 2012 | 2:52 pm

    Some good points, but I must disagree with your assertion that farmers as a bunch are all so honest that you can trust anyone who looks you in the eye and tells you he or she grows organically even though they are not certified. I work on a certified organic vegetable CSA, and I can tell you that while there are honest farmers going above and beyond without certification, unless you know them well or know something about farming you probably won’t be able to pick out those gems from the rest. Visiting the farm is a good idea but most people know so little about farming that even standing in the middle of it they won’t know anything but to believe what the farmer tells them about his practices.

    There are a few things you can look for to help you decide who to trust. The first is prices. If your non-certified farmer claims to grow organically but his prices are well below what you see from local certified organic farms of comparable size, he’s either a poor businessman who won’t be in business for long, or he’s a liar. It takes an incredible amount of manual labor to deal with weeds and pests when not using pesticides, which will be reflected in the prices. Second is if you visit the farm, look for weeds amongst the crops. If there isn’t a weed in sight, be suspicious. I’m not saying you should look for a farm overrun with weeds but in the reality of growing food organically weeds are a constant battle of which there will be some evidence.

  7. Katherine
    December 10, 2012 | 12:03 pm

    Great article. I like the comment about beauty and skin care products too.

    I too shop at a lot of small non-certified organic farms and love talking to farmers about their business. I find the same thing – that they are more than willing to discuss their practices with you, even if it is not the most politically correct practice.

  8. Scott
    December 10, 2012 | 4:14 pm

    Agree w/ all your advice here…the problem is we have a food system that rewards large-scale, business-like farming environments that rely on pesticides and economies of scale. This obviously drives up the cost of healthier products. I still pay more for them, but most people aren’t willing to.

  9. Donna
    December 12, 2012 | 10:42 am

    Please consider if you vaccinate: calculate the cumulative amount of aluminum, mercury and other constituents your child will be receiving before the age of 2. Google search cumulative vaccine aluminum. Click the link to the pdf by http://www.thinktwice.com Written by Neil Z Miller, the research shows just how much aluminum is in your child’s system via vaccination only.
    Enough evidence to rally for vaccine safety and research into vaccine safety.

  10. Katherine
    December 13, 2012 | 10:14 am

    Your mattress is treated with fire retardant chemicals. And the most popular mattress in America off-gases in the neighborhood of 60+ chemicals.

  11. Dani
    December 13, 2012 | 6:51 pm

    knowing the farmer is only half of it–the term “organic” has been so tainted that I don’t like to buy certified organic produce unless I know the farmer and their practices. In fact, the rules have become so stiff that it’s not natural any longer, and also there are some “acceptable” pesticides/fertilizers/other practices that are not okay in my book. I don’t do organics from the big grocery for this reason–there’s no telling how true-to-intent those farmers in Chile or Mexico stick to “wholistic and sustainable” practices. Best bet is to grow and put up your own (not always realistic, especially for 100% of needed foods), but always know who grows your food and how they grow it. We cannot rely on any organization or government entity to care about our welfare as much as we will for our own!

  12. April
    December 22, 2012 | 2:50 pm

    I live in an area where we are inundated with gigantic cockroaches. I’m sick of calling an exterminator to get rid of them, because of both pesticides and money. Is there a really, truly effective way to repel these monstrous, hideous bugs? I hate them. They are gross. And, they bring their own sets of poisons along with them. I need to keep them away without the use of pesticides, but it requires something strong. These buggars do not die or retreat easily.

  13. Mary B
    December 25, 2012 | 11:44 am

    Another thing that comes to mind is all the antibacterial soaps and other products out there. I use soaps from Vermont Soap at home. For when we are out and about and might need to use a public restroom, I carry a teeny bottle of Dr Bronner’s in my purse to wash my hands or my kids hands. I do notice that since making an effort to avoid the chemical-filled soaps my hands stay softer and the skin does not crack in the winter months.

  14. Carrie @ Natural Gumption
    December 29, 2012 | 7:31 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this post. As a dental hygienist I have observed for years what traditional chemical laden products did for patients as well as people working in offices. Through the years the holistic approach grabbed a hold of me, and my passion for helping people become well started. It’s been an uphill battle fighting the fluoride and mercury warriors, but I am happy to say that I make a difference in the lives I touch by helping people understand that their mouths don’t need to be filled with poisons and chemicals. Great post, thanks!!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.