Cockroaches and mosquitoes can cause asthma, dengue and a host of other diseases. But do the pesticides that kill them pose equal, sometimes greater danger to our kids’ health?
Used incorrectly, pesticides can be very harmful when ingested or inhaled, or absorbed by the skin. Remember: they are designed to kill or harm living organisms (even if it if a pesky mosquito). And though they may not be enough to bother an adult, children are at greater risk for pesticide poisoning.
How pesticides hurt your kids
Your child’s organs are stil developing. The pesticides can affect their ability to absorb nutrients. Their bodies may also have a hard time expelling the harmful chemicals, which stay in their systems where they can cause long-term and even permanent damage to the nervous system and other organs.
Pregnant women should also avoid pesticide exposure because of its effect on their unborn child’s neuromuscular system. (Read our article for other household products you shouldn’t use during pregnancy.) However, there have been very few studies on how great the effect can be. Research has been done on animals, which developed skeletal abnormalities and low birth weight after excessive exposure.
The chemistry of a pest killer
There are chemical pesticides (made of synthetic materials) or biopesticides (made of natural materials as animals, plants and bacteria). Chemical pesticides include organophosphates and carbamates, which kill pests by affecting their nervous system, and pyrethroids.
On the other hand, biopesticides use naturally occurring substances. For example, microbial biopesticides use bacteria or virus, to attack the pest or its eggs. Others harvest substances from plants or use naturally occurring substances (like sex pheromones that interfere with mating).
What is your family’s risk for pesticide poisoning?
Both kinds of pesticides can affect a person’s health, but in varying degrees. You also have to consider how you were exposed to the pesticide, how much, and your own level of sensitivity. For example, swallowing pesticide can be very toxic and potentially fatal, since the chemicals can harm the stomach and intestinal lining.
Your kid’s pesticide exposure
1. Playing on the floor. Even unscented sprays will leave a microscopic ‘carpet’ of pesticide droplets on the floor, where they’ll be absorbed by your toddler’s skin.
2. Inhaling the chemicals.
3. Chewing on a toy. You’d never let your toddler chew on a bottle of insecticide, but they’re at equal risk if you leave their teether on the table when you spray.
4. Touching an infected surface, then rubbing the eyes. Some pesticides can even penetrate the eyes directly (that’s why they get watery).
5. Accidentally eatingimproperly stored pesticides and cleansing agents like roach sprays, chlorine bleach, disinfectants, rat poisons and insect sprays. Even swimming can put them at risk, if the water contains strong chemicals.
There are also studies that show that kids can get exposed to pesticides in school so check with the principal or administrator about their practices for using it in buildings, lawns, soccer or football fields, etc.
Signs of pesticide poisoning
Symptoms include nausea, mild dizziness, and redness of the eyes or skin. Severe reactions include respiratory distress (difficulty in breathing, wheezing), convulsions, and change in consciousness. Here’s what to do:
1. If it was due to contact with the skin and eyes: Remove contaminated clothes. Wash the affected area with clean running water for 15 minutes.
2. If it was inhaled: Loosen tight fitting clothes. Bring him near a window or any area where he can get a lot of fresh air. If he has convulsions, has trouble breathing, or is turning blue, give artificial respiration and rush to the nearest possible.
3. If it was swallowed: Don’t make the person vomit. Some poisons may cause even grater injury when they are vomited. Bring the person to the emergency room right away.
Photo from myhealthguardian.com