Children exposed to toxic pesticides

  • Family
  • Sunday, 04 May 2014

Kids being poisoned: Pesticides sprayed in French farms and vineyards are being absorbed by children living nearby, claims the group Generations Futures. -AFP

A study shows that several children from agricultural areas in France have been exposed to harmful chemicals.

French children in agricultural areas are being exposed to a dangerous cocktail of pesticides, some of them banned, a French health and environment group has claimed.

Generations Futures carried out independent analysis of the hair of young people living or studying near farms or vineyards after parents expressed concern about their children being exposed to poisons that could disrupt their endocrine system. The group, a non-profit organisation specialising in the use and effects of pesticides on humans and the environment, says its findings confirmed their fears.

Researchers took hair samples from a selected group of children aged between three and 10 living or attending schools between 50m and 200m from different agricultural zones. It sent the samples to an independent laboratory in Luxembourg that used methods similar to those employed by detectives investigating poisoning cases.

A total of 624 pesticide traces were found in the 29 samples tested – one sample was deemed of insufficient quantity – suggesting that 80% of the children had been exposed to agricultural pesticides in the previous three months. In total, the laboratory found traces of 53 pesticides believed to affect the hormone system of mammals, leading to cancerous tumours, birth defects, developmental disorders and learning disabilities in humans.

An average of 21.52 different pesticides were found for each child, 35 so-called “endocrine disruptor” pesticides were found at least once, while 13 were discovered in every hair sample. Just under three-quarters of the children ate organic produce regularly, suggesting the contamination came from an outside source and not their food.

“The presence of more than 21 pesticides, on average, that are endocrine disruptors in the hair that was analysed shows that our children are exposed to a significant cocktail of these substances,” said Francois Veillerette, a spokesperson for Generations Futures. “Now the European Commission must finally make public a clear and protective definition of the endocrine disruptors that have to be banned.”

The group’s report urges urgent action. “Our demand is simple and based on an ambitious goal: no organism should contain endocrine disruptors, in order to protect the health of unborn children.”

The group says the French government’s own national strategy to deal with endocrine disruptors has reached a dead end. The plan was originally to be published in 2013, but has been repeatedly postponed until the end of this month.

“Because children are part of the population especially vulnerable to the dangers of endocrine disruptors, they should not be exposed to them,” it said.

The research showed that several children had been exposed to harmful chemicals banned in agricultural use but still used in parasite treatments for pet animals.

Jean-Charles Bocquet, director of the European Association of Plant Protection Product Manufacturers, dismissed the research. “The presence of pesticide traces is not necessarily indicative of a health danger, especially in infinitely small doses. I’m sure you’d find traces of diesel in our hair if you looked for it,” he said.

Veillerette disagreed. “It’s not the dose that’s the problem, but the accumulation of pesticides causing a cocktail effect,” he said. Generations Futures says it has sent its findings to a specialised university research team for further analysis. – Guardian News & Media

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