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Back to School: Do Pesticides Affect Your Child’s Ability to Learn?

Warning Pesticides: Fire Will Cause Toxic FumesThere are many reasons to love Integrated Pest Management, an environmentally friendly approach to pest control. Homeowners love Integrated Pest Management because it minimizes the use of toxic pesticides. Especially in eco-conscious cities like Portland, pest control methods that respect the earth and protect the health of one’s family are gaining popularity.

Recent research into how pesticides impact learning may provide yet another motivation for choosing low-impact pest control methods, including Integrated Pest Management. Several studies suggest that exposure to pesticides makes it more difficult for students to learn.

Research Connecting Pesticides and Learning Abilities

For instance, University of Wisconsin at Madison research spearheaded by Dr. Warren Porter found that “female mice whose mothers were exposed to the pesticide chlorpyifos were slow learners.” (Male mice did not show the same outcome, perhaps because they have different liver-detoxifying enzymes.) Pre-natal exposure to pesticides slowed the mental processing speed of these female mice.

Another study published in the journal Pediatrics found a connection between exposure to pesticides and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a condition that makes it difficult for students to focus. More than 1,000 children from across the United States were included in this research, which concluded, “Children with above-average levels of one (pesticide) byproduct had roughly twice the odds of getting a diagnosis of ADHD.” This study showed that, from Pittsburg to Portland, pest control solutions that require the use of pesticides put children at risk of developing learning disabilities.

Why Children are Vulnerable

Considering that most pesticides were originally developed to be used as nerve gases in World War II, it shouldn’t be surprising that exposure to them affects the performance of the nervous system, including the brain. Children are especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of pesticides, for several reasons. First, they imbibe more food and water relative to their body weight than adults, which means they have a higher relative exposure to pesticides. Additionally, children’s minds and bodies are still under development, so they have less ability to detoxify after exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Given all of the evidence that pesticides have a negative impact on learning and health, many experts recommend that commercial pest management firms that eradicate pests in schools should minimize the use of pesticides wherever possible.

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