Thursday, February 9, 2017

Children at risk from poisons at home

A new study has once again confirmed that children are at risk from pesticides used in the home.

Hawai`i's  statewide hue and cry about agricultural pest control products appears to miss the real danger, which is caused by home pest control products.

Not agricultural pesticides, but the pesticides used on pets are identified as a specific threat to infants and older kids.

The new probe is the first study into unintentional exposure to animal medications by children. It is entitled “Pediatric Exposures to Veterinary Pharmaceuticals,” and was performed by researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics

Science Daily’s Feb. 6, 2017, review of the study notes that kids can be exposed in numerous ways, including eating the medication directly, eating medicated pet food, and coming into contact with fur of treated pets. 

“When you have kids and pets in the home, sometimes things get a little busy. Thinking about how your pet's medicines could be a risk for your family might not even cross your mind" said Kristi Roberts, of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

While the Hawai`i Legislature continues to express angst about risks from farmers’ use of agricultural chemicals, for which there is limited evidence, it’s arguable that it ignores the actual threats. 

Agricultural pesticide use is on a downturn, and actually peaked 30 years ago, as we wrote in 2015. 
That said, it's a mixed bag. The kinds of agricultural chemicals have changed—more herbicides and less insecticides—and has trended over time to less hazardous chemicals.

But actual health impacts from exposure to the chemicals used closest to home and in the home--those threats appear to be real.

When a Kaua`i mother subjected her child’s hair to testing for chemicals a few years go, it turned out most of the pesticides found at the highest levels were chemicals used in the home—including ones used to control insects on pets. We covered that here

The Nationwide Children’s Hospital study in Pedatrics looked at actual hospital admissions for children suffering from pesticide poisoning from 1999 to 2013, in data collected by the Central Ohio Poison Center. It found 1,431 cases, 88 percent of them involving kids aged 5 or less.

“Exploratory behavior was the most common exposure-related circumstance (61.4%) and ingestion accounted for the exposure route in 93% of cases,” the study says.

“Substances commonly associated with exposures included: veterinary drugs without human equivalent (17.3%), antimicrobial agents (14.8%), and antiparasitics (14.6%).”

The authors argue that parents and child care services may not recognize the risks of exposure to young children who are constantly exploring their environments.

“Prevention and education efforts should focus on appropriate product dispensing, home storage practices, and proper medication delivery to help reduce the risk of veterinary pharmaceutical exposure to young children,” they write.

This threat was earlier identified in a 2012 pesticide statement in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. While it said the data at that time was limited, it expressed serious concern.

“Children encounter pesticides daily in air, food, dust, and soil and on surfaces through home and public lawn or garden applications, household insecticide use, application to pets, and agricultural product residue,” the statement says. 

A 2015 study, “Residential Exposure to Pesticide During Childhood and Childhood Cancers: A Meta-Analysis,” also in Pediatrics, also found that indoor use of insecticides was a risk. 

“Children exposed to indoor insecticides would have a higher risk of childhood hematopoietic cancers. Additional research is needed to confirm the association between residential indoor pesticide exposures and childhood cancers. Meanwhile, preventive measures should be considered to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides at home,” the study said.

"We found that childhood exposure to indoor but not outdoor residential insecticides was associated with a significant increase in risk of childhood leukemia ... and childhood lymphomas," wrote the authors of the 2015 pesticide/cancer study.

There is lots of data out there, and making sense of it can be challenging. But a number of studies is now suggesting the need for serious attention to home pesticide use.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2017

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