Kids, especially the youngest, and even the unborn, are hypersensitive to toxic substances. Trace amounts of these things can have radical undesirable effects. Nearly undetectable levels can affect whole populations, and exact enormous costs on us all.
My first realization of this criticality came from reading about environmental lead. The government program to remove lead paint from older housing had spectacular benefits, both in the lives of children who might have been permanently brain-damaged but were instead normal, and in the huge economic savings that resulted.
Very young children and the unborn
are hypersensitive to poisons.
Now it’s becoming ever more obvious that the rising incidence of many other illnesses and conditions affecting kids is also due to environmental substances they encounter. “Warning Signs”, by Susan Freinkel [The Nation, March 31, 2014] gives us an excellent summary of findings from research on the families of agricultural workers in the Salinas Valley. The photo below accompanies the article, and tells it all.
Workers are warned not to go into fields that have been recently sprayed, but of course there is no way to avoid the tons of poisons constantly dumped on these food crops, and they carry the residues home, where they harm their children. The article shows what happens to their kids because of this.
A senior researcher profiled in the article sympathizes with the growers, who are supposedly trapped into using 400% more poison spray than they did several decades ago. I disagree. A little outside-the-box thinking is all that’s required.
Blanket application of poisons is rarely necessary. First, as every old-fashioned farmer knows, crop rotation controls many pests, yet factory farms tend to plant the same crop in the same place year after year, thus encouraging insect and disease resistance. Second, the blanket drenching of fields with deadly poison is rarely necessary. Every large grower should have a staff that inspects crops full time, and controls pests only when and where they are found. There should be many services that do exactly this, but they are rare. Such a plan could probably remove 90% of the pesticides from agriculture and save a ton of money in the process, not to mention the lives of children who would otherwise be seriously injured. There is great debate about drones these days. This would be an excellent use for small helicopter drones for precision pesticide application.
There are better options
than ever-increasing use of poisons.
At the same time that the findings were released for the study Freinkel tells us about, another study on the effect of pesticides used for cockroaches in the inner city showed nearly the same effects on urban children. In fact, we may have stumbled upon the answer to a whole lot of disease problems. In China, closing of a belching coal plant ten years ago led to a reduction of compromised brain development in children. A number of studies suggest that our factory food with all its additives and preservatives may be responsible for the increasing incidence of a whole series of food sensitivities, chronic diseases, autism, and other mysterious conditions.
The urban poor often live in parts of the city with more pollution, quite aside from lead. From dirty power and manufacturing plants, former military bases, industrial warehouses, etc. There is an abnormal incidence of asthma, allergy, and other conditions in such places. It seems obvious to me that these urban findings and agricultural findings result because fetuses, infants, and children are far more sensitive to chemical insult than we had thought.
It looks like environmental toxins
could be causing a whole range
of serious injuries to children.
The social cost of subtle damage to children is probably far greater than we presumed. The loss of several IQ points in a large part of the population is of national concern. The added medical cost of a widespread condition such as asthma is significant. Brain damage that eventually causes more crime is hugely costly to the country. The incidence of autism appears to be on the rise, and some link it to environmental conditions. If we could save even a fraction of what lead abatement has saved by limiting environmental toxins, the benefits in economic costs alone would be vast. But it is the human savings and the benefits to society as a whole that would be the true measure of success.