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5 Tips for Pesticide Control

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As a child, I loved the board game Clue. In our house on a rainy day, it wouldn't be unusual to hear family members shouting, “Professor Plum with the lead pipe in the kitchen.” But that's not all that lead pipe did. Back then, the lead pipe in our family's Clue set was made of real lead. It was soft and flexible, and I can still remember how it tasted (yes, I put it in my mouth—what kid didn't?). My G.I. Joe diver also came with “real lead weights.” But we later learned that lead was a potent neurotoxin, capable of robbing children of IQ points (among other things).

At first we thought there was a “safe” amount of exposure to lead, but those levels plummeted as research confirmed otherwise. Now we know that any lead exposure at all can cause measurable damage to the brain. In the U.S. today, the current estimate is that more than 22 million IQ points have been lost in young children because of lead.

A similar trajectory now appears to be under way with pesticides. The same study estimates that more than 16 million IQ points are lost among today's kids 5 and younger from exposure to pesticides, which they encounter in food, air, dust, and soil, both at home and in school or public places. Commonly used since World War II, today these pesticides have been linked to decreased intelligence, learning problems, and ADHD. But that estimate of 16 million IQ points lost is based on the assumption that the levels found in half of our kids are too low to make a difference. Perhaps that is true. Or one day, as with lead, damage may be shown at lower levels, and we may learn that 16 million is a significant underestimate. In the meantime, at right are five easy ways to minimize pesticide exposure.{C}

Simple Ways to Avoid Pesticides:

  • Buy organic produce as often as your budget allows, but even just choosing produce that's in season and grown in the U.S. will help.

  • Make sure your child's school or daycare practices Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This approach includes sealing cracks, wrapping trash securely, and using traps and gels to minimize the need for spraying pesticides.

  • Go all-natural outdoors, too, and avoid using lawn and garden products that combine fertilizers and pesticides or herbicides.

  • At home, keep household bugs at bay with more natural insecticides like boric acid.

  • Bathe pets regularly to help kill fleas—so you can keep more-toxic treatment use to a minimum.

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