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Protecting Children from Pesticides: Information for Parents

​Pesticides are used in many products and may affect children’s health in a variety of ways. However, there are things parents can do to protect their children from pesticides where they live and play.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement, “Pesticide Exposure in Children,” and accompanying technical report highlight some of the major health concerns linked to pesticide exposure (particularly prenatal exposure). For example:

Pesticide Poisoning

In recent years, products with some highly toxic pesticide ingredients have been removed from store shelves. And while more education on pesticides and better packaging have helped, thousands of cases of pesticide poisonings are still reported to US poison control centers every year.

Sources of Pesticide

Pesticides are still found in:

  • Food 
  • Insect repellents
  • Rodent control products
  • Lawn and garden care products
  • Pet products

Because pesticides are still in many places in our environment, a child’s amount of exposure can add up quickly. These exposures usually do not lead to instant poisoning symptoms. However, studies suggest that exposure may affect healthy child development.

Tips for Parents

Reducing your child’s exposure to pesticides is not difficult, so start today! 

  • Reduce exposure to pesticides in foods.
    • Organic produce has been found to have less pesticides and a potentially lower risk of exposure to drug-resistant bacteria. However, the most important thing for children is to eat a wide variety of produce, whether it’s conventional or organic. For more information, see the AAP report, “Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages.”
    • Wash and scrub fruits and veggies with water. This will reduce any pesticide residue remaining on the surface. 
    • Click here for the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
  • Do not use toxic pesticide in your home, garden and places children play.
    • Use chemical-free pest control products or the least toxic method for common household and garden pest problems. 
  • Work with schools and government agencies to encourage the use of products with the least-toxic pesticides. Promote community “right-to-know” procedures when pesticide spraying occurs in public areas.
    • Use pest control methods that don’t require pesticide chemicals or use the least toxic methods available for common household and garden problems.
    • Avoid using pesticides, even periodically, for preventive purposes.
  • If you use pesticides, follow the directions on the label carefully. Store pesticides safely out of children’s reach. 
    • Never use bug bombs or broad spraying pesticides. Choose localized crack and crevice treatments instead. They can limit exposure to children.
  • Talk with your child’s pediatrician about lice control without pesticides. Do not use lindane on children. 
  • If you work with pesticides, be sure you don’t “take them home” on your clothes and shoes. Try to change clothes before coming home and remove and store shoes outside.
Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2012)
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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