Jan 3, 2011
Pesticide residues found on conventional fruits and vegetables have been shown to be harmful to health, but what about the people who pick this produce and the children they bare? According to recent studies, field workers and their children who live in the Salinas Valley of California, also known as the world’s “salad bowl” because of its massive produce exports, are experiencing significant developmental and other health problems as a result of continual pesticide exposure.
Professor Brenda Eskenazi and her colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley, began a study 12 years ago on the effects of long-term pesticide exposure in both migrant workers and in the local population that lives in and around Salinas Valley. The team focused particularly on pregnant women and their children to assess how the toxins affect growth and development.
Upon tracking pregnant woman throughout their pregnancies, taking umbilical cord blood samples of their newborn children, and evaluating childhood development in subsequent years, the team observed that children born to mothers that were most exposed to pesticide metabolites had the poorest development among all other children.
“We have very, very high reports by the mother [sic] of behaviors consistent with pervasive developmental disorder,” explained Eskenazi at a neurotoxicology conference. “These include signs like the child is afraid to try new things, can’t stand anything out of place, and avoids looking others in the eye. This is considered to be autism spectrum behavior.”
The team also noted that even up to age five, children whose mothers had the highest levels of pesticide metabolites in their urine during pregnancy had the hardest time keeping focused and maintaining attention span compared to other children.
Many of the pesticides used in agriculture are designed to disrupt the nervous systems of insects in order to deter them, so it makes sense that the toxic chemicals affect developing children in the same way.
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