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Study urged of pesticide, youth violence link

kids are at higher risk
Since children eat, drink and breathe more pesticides pound per pound than adults, they are at higher risk of health impairments.   

August 9, 1999
Web posted at: 12:52 p.m. EDT (1652 GMT)


(ENN) -- The Environmental Protection Agency's ban on one pesticide and restricted use of another for fruits and vegetables does little to address the link between pesticides and youth violence, according to a university researcher.

"A rapidly expanding body of research shows that heavy metals such as lead and pesticides decrease mental ability and increase aggressiveness," Robert Hatherill, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote in an editorial for the Chicago Tribune.

On August 2, EPA banned the use of methyl parathion and restricted the use of azinphos methyl for fruits and vegetables because the pesticides can damage the brain and nervous system. Young children are especially susceptible.

While environmental groups applaud this step, they say it does not go far enough to address the threats pesticides pose to youth. Environmental groups filed suit August 3 to force the agency to comply with the Food Quality Protection Act, which requires the agency to consider the risk pesticides pose to children.

Under the act, August 3 was the deadline for the agency to implement a program to screen and test 3,200 pesticides to determine their risk to children under the act. The lawsuit alleges the agency has only issued a timeline for implementation.

"Our actions today will protect children from the adverse effects of exposure to pesticides commonly used on foods," said Carol Browner, the EPA administrator. "The agency also is on schedule to meet all deadlines for ensuring safer pesticides use under the new Food Quality Protection Act."

pesticide usage up
Pesticide use has increased 33-fold since 1942.   

Green groups beg to differ. "EPA actions up to now have reduced the risk from only two out of the 125 riskiest pesticide uses on food, and have actually allowed more risk in seven cases. This is a pathetic record," said Edward Groth, a policy director at Consumers Union, one of the groups that filed suit.

According to Hatherill, pesticide use has increased 33-fold since 1942 and since children eat, drink and breathe more pesticides pound per pound than adults, they are at high risk to health impairments.

"Recent studies show that trace levels of multiple pesticides cause increased aggression. Trace pesticide mixtures have induced abnormal thyroid hormone levels, which are associated with irritability, aggression and multiple chemical sensitivity," he wrote.

Hatherill believes that the increased use of pesticides in combination with a diet of low-fiber, processed foods has led to high levels of pesticides in children and may be the root cause of the trend of youth violence in the United States.

"Rather than directing all our attention to bitter debates on gun control and the violence in the entertainment industry, let's also consider the pressing need for a cleaner environment and more nutritious food," concluded Hatherill.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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EPA Office of Pesticide Programs
Natural Resources Defense Council
Consumers Union Press Release
American Farm Bureau
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