Baby crawling on grass with text: Can your child read pesticide warning signs?


  • The National Academy of Sciences reports that children are more susceptible to chemicals than adults and estimates that 50% of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs during the first five years of life.1
  • EPA concurs that children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals.2
  • How do pesticides end up in kids' bodies? Playing on, rolling on, occasionally nibbling on, treated landscapes. Pesticides are easily inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or inadvertently eaten when children put unwashed hands in their mouths.
  • Children with developmental delays and those younger than six years are at increased risk of ingesting pesticides through nonfood items, such as soil.3 These children are also the least likely to be able to read or understand pesticide warning signs and labels.
  • Of the 30 most common lawn pesticides, 17 are probable or possible human carcinogens, 11 are linked with birth defects, 19 linked with reproductive effects, 14 associated with neurotoxicity, 24 linked to liver or kidney damage, 25 are sensitizers or irritants, and 18 are endocrine disrupters.4
  • Common landscape pesticides have been linked to autism, Parkinson’s disease, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain cancer, asthma, and hormone disruption. Studies have shown even small exposures to pesticides at critical periods of a child's development may cause acute or long-term health problems.
  • 70,000 yearly calls to American Association of Poison Control Center involve common household pesticides.5
  • Pesticide residues are brought inside on shoes, clothes, and pets. Because pesticides break down fastest when exposed to sunlight and water, they can linger and acquire higher concentrations than if left outdoors. This creates opportunity for daily exposure to pesticides (for you, your kids, and your pets!) for years.
  • Samples from 120 Cape Cod homes, where elevated incidence of breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers are reported, find high indoor air and dust concentrations of the common landscape pesticides carbaryl, permethrin, and 2,4-D.6

1. National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children, National Academy Press, Washington, DC. 184-185.

2. US EPA, Office of the Administrator, "Environmental Health Threats to Children," EPA 175-F-96-001, September 1996. See also:

3. Faustman EM, Silbernagel SM, Fenske RA, Burbacher TM, Ponce RA. 2000. "Mechanisms underlying children’s susceptibility to environmental toxicants." Environmental Health Perspectives. 108(suppl 1):13 –21.

4. Beyond Pesticides


6. Rudel, Ruthann, et al. 2003. "Phthalates, Alkylphenols, Pesticides, Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers, and Other Endocrine-Disrupting Compounds in Indoor Air and Dust." Environmental Science and Technology 37(20): 4543-4553.