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Safety & Prevention

Pesticides, Herbicides and Children

​​Pesticides and herbicides represent a large group of chemical products designed to kill or harm unwanted insects, plants, molds, and rodents.

Pesticides are used in a variety of settings, including homes, schools, parks, lawns, gardens, and farms. While they may kill insects, rodents, and weeds, many are toxic to people when consumed in food and water.

More research is needed to determine the short- and long-term effects of pesticides and herbicides on humans. Although some studies have found connections between some childhood cancers and an exposure to pesticides, other studies have not reached the same conclusions. Many pesticides disrupt the nervous system of insects, and research has shown that they have the potential to damage the neurological system of children.


Try to limit your child's unnecessary exposure to pesticides. To reduce such exposure:

  • Minimize using foods in which chemical pesticides were used by farmers.

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables with water before your child consumes them.

  • For your own lawn and garden, use nonchemical pest control methods whenever possible. If you keep bottles of pesticides in your home or garage, make sure they're out of the reach of children to avoid any unintentional poisoning.

  • Consider that children and adults who eat organic foods have lower levels of pesticide metabolites in their system. You may want to choose organic (when possible) to decrease your family's risk.

  • Avoid routinely spraying homes or schools to prevent insect infestations.

  • Consider integrated pest management, which focuses on the use of baits, and blocking the sources of entry.

Talk with your pediatrician

If you have questions about pesticides exposure for your child, talk with your pediatrician. Your regional Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) have staff who can also talk with parents about concerns over environmental toxins.

More information:

Last Updated
Adapted from Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five 7th edition (Copyright © 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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