First study highlights short-term harm to children from pesticides: What you need to know

First study highlights short term harm to children from  garden pesticides 


Researchers, for the first time, have found children exposed to pesticides used when harvesting flowers can pose dangers to children. In short, neurotoxins in pesticides known as organophosphates interfere with brain connections that can impact a child’s ability to remember, learn and control behavior.

Pesticide exposure shown to lower performance in children

"Children examined sooner after the flower harvest displayed lower performance on most measures, such as attention, self-control, visuospatial processing (the ability to perceive and interact with our visual world) and sensorimotor (eye-hand coordination) compared to children examined later in a time of lower flower production and pesticide use."

The study was performed in Ecuador, the third largest producer of cut flowers in the world.

First author Jose R. Suarez-Lopez, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine explained in a press release, the changes were short-term, but the study is the first to show organophosphates do have a negative impact on neurobehavior in children.

Suarez-Lopez highlights the fact that most students take exams during peak flower harvest, May to July.

The effect of pesticides could mean lower exam scores and performance, in turn hinders a child’s ability to access higher education opportunities or obtain a job.

The study

The research included 308 children who were tested; aged 4 to 9. The children did not work in agriculture, but they lives in communities that primarily involved flower harvesting.

Suarez-Lopez and his team performed behavioral and blood testing.

How to avoid pesticides in your garden

If you love to garden, but hate the pests, consider these natural organic alternatives:




  • Keep your garden clean. Raking, replacing mulch and weeding helps discourage insect breeding grounds. 
  • Water flowers and other vegetation early in the day. Wet foliage encourages pesky visitors.. Consider a soaker hose to keep flower and vegetable leaves dry. 
  • Plant some daisies around to attract ladybugs. The pretty little insects seen to love the taste of whiteflies, aphids and mites. You can also order ladybugs online to add to your garden. 
  • Buy some praying mantis eggs and place them in your garden. They’ll hatch quickly and eat unwanted garden insects





"Our findings need to be replicated in studies of children with assessments conducted before, during and after peak exposure periods," said Suarez-Lopez. "But given the evidence thus far, and the potential for pesticide exposure to alter both short- and long-term learning abilities, cognition, social interactions and overall well-being, taking additional precautions to shield children from exposure is certainly advised."

The finding is published in the journal NeuroToxicology

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