Hesperian Health Guides

Protecting Children from Pesticides

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 14: Pesticides Are Poison > Protecting Children from Pesticides

Children should be kept away from pesticides.

A woman speaks to a girl who is holding out her arms to be picked up.

Wait a moment until I change my clothes and wash, Olanike.
  • should not play with, use, or even touch old pesticide containers.
  • should not play on farm equipment that is used to spray pesticides.
  • should not wade or swim in irrigation or drainage ditches.
  • should not enter or play in recently treated fields.

Adults can protect children from pesticides:

  • wash work clothes, shoes and your hands before entering the house and before touching children.
  • wash children’s clothes apart from parents’ clothes.
  • wash fruits and vegetables very well before anyone eats them.
  • avoid the use of pesticides at home, especially indoors.
  • store pesticide containers and equipment out of children’s reach.
A village struggles against pesticide poisoning

People in Padre Village in Kerala, India used to think they were cursed. Young people suffered from serious health problems such as epilepsy, brain damage, and cancer, and did not grow as they should. Many women were unable to give birth, and many babies were born with missing arms and legs. What could cause all this illness besides a curse?

Cashew nuts.

Padre Village was famous for its rich cashew plantations. Years ago, the company that owns the cashew plantations began spraying a pesticide called endosulfan. After spraying began, villagers noticed that bees, frogs, and fish vanished from the area. Many people thought they were killed by endosulfan, but they could not prove it.

Shree Padre, a local farmer and journalist, saw his calves born with deformed limbs. Since endosulfan had been sprayed near his farm many times, he wondered if the birth defects were caused by the pesticide. Shree Padre spoke with a doctor who had noticed similar health problems in people. After writing to people all over India, they learned that almost all the problems they noticed were known to be caused by endosulfan.

Visits from other organizations confirmed what Shree Padre and the doctor had learned. Word spread that the ill health of the people was caused by endosulfan.

Villagers gathered at the plantation offices and demanded that the spraying be stopped. The plantation officials, the pesticide industry, and some local authorities denied that endosulfan caused the problems. The police were called in and protests were broken up. Soon, the local press and television picked up the story. Before long, people across India and around the world learned about the health problems caused by endosulfan. The state government banned endosulfan in Kerala.

But the pesticide industry argued that endosulfan was safe. They paid doctors and scientists to say that the health problems had no connection to endosulfan. Soon, due to pressure from the pesticide industry, the ban was dropped. Plantations in Padre began spraying again.

Farmers, doctors, and villagers from the area demanded that the government study the problem. Finally, the government agreed with the people of Padre Village: endosulfan was a deadly poison. A law was passed to ban it once and for all in that part of India.

But endosulfan is still sprayed in other parts of India, and in other countries. Laws say it is poison in some places, while it is considered safe in others. Poisons like endosulfan are only banned when people work together to pressure industry and governments for change.

People protesting carry signs reading "Stop Pesticide Use!" "End the Circle of Poison!" "Safe and Secure for Tomorrow,""No More Pesticide!"and "Pesticides are Poison."