Children are not small adults
This conclusion from the National Research Council (NRC) report "Pesticides in Infant and Child Nutrition" is again a key element in understanding why children are so sensitive to the effects of pesticides.
The development of the child in utero and then in the early years of life is so rapid, so intense, that exposure to chemical agents too low to affect an adult can lead to health effects on children including physiological, psychomotor and intellectual development.
Do children absorb more pesticides?
Yes, compared to adults, children breathe more and eat more. As a result, they are exposed to higher amounts of pesticides through inhalation and ingestion.
Moreover, a child's skin is much more permeable than that of an adult, especially if the child is born before term because the dermis develops during the last months of gestation. They are therefore also more exposed through skin contact.
Do children have more difficulty disposing of pesticides?
Yes, because their development is not complete and does not protect the child as an adult.
The blood-brain barrier that protects adults' brains from toxic substances is formed only after 6 months, making fetuses and infants much more vulnerable to pesticide exposure.
The kidneys and liver are not yet fully finished and functional. They do not function like those of an aunt and treat most toxic molecules with greater difficulty and as a result, they can remain in their bodies up to three times longer than in adults before being excreted in urine and feces. It is only at the age of 7 years that a child's body can treat toxic products like an adult.
On the positive side, some pesticide metabolites are more dangerous than the parent product to which the body has been exposed. As a result, some of these chemicals affect very young children less.
At what age is the child most vulnerable to pesticides?
Children are vulnerable to pesticides from conception to adolescence. However, some periods are more critical.
Exposure to pesticides in pregnant women results in exposure of the fetus during the first 9 months of pregnancy. This foetal exposure can have consequences on organ development, foetal growth and cognitive abilities, among others.
Endocrine disrupting pesticides can have significant health effects. These chemicals modify hormonal messages and the functioning of endocrine glands such as the thyroid, pituitary gland, thymus, adrenals, pancreas, ovaries and testicles.
Exposure to pesticides during pregnancy or childhood can induce health effects several years later.
Why is indoor air a major source of pesticide exposure for children?
Indoor air pollution by pesticides, insecticides and biocides in particular, is a reality attested by multiple scientific studies. On average, we spend 80% of our time inside buildings and 80% of our exposure is through inhalation. As a result, the air we breathe at home is the main source of pesticide exposure.