Pesticides in US farmworkers' children

evidence has been found of pesticide exposure in small children (1-6 year olds) of farm-workers in the us, say researchers at the Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Led by Thomas Arcury, the scientists say that their study conducted among immigrant farm-workers across six North Carolina counties confirmed the exposure to pesticides after analysing urine samples.

The measures of exposure found were much higher in this study, than in other similar studies. The samples were analysed to find exposure to organophosphate insecticides, which are the most widely used pesticides. High levels of exposure to the pesticides can cause coma and even death, while long-term exposure at low levels can increase chances of developing sterility, birth defects and cancer.

Children are considered to be more vulnerable than adults to the adverse effects of pesticides because of their smaller body mass and rapid physical and mental development.

As a separate part of the study, mothers were also interviewed. Researchers found out that 40 per cent of mothers and 30 per cent of fathers had not received pesticide training, which is mandatory under us law. Three in five children lived in households where farm-workers did not shower immediately after work and four in five lived in households in which workers changed their clothes within the house.

In a separate study, interviews were conducted with 41 Latino women in farming households in North Carolina and Virginia to assess their awareness of pesticides. Most commonly, interviewees considered smell as the most important aspect. "They did not realise that pesticides and residues often have no detectable odour,' the scientists say.

Nearly one-third of the women thought of pesticides as contagious or exposure as an infection. Some mothers allowed their children in the fields, believing that if they didn't touch the crops, they weren't at risk of exposure.