10 ways to keep kids safe from pesticides

New study finds indoor pesticide exposure may increase risk of childhood cancer.

10 ways to keep kids safe from pesticides

Getting rid of ants and other pests around the house is hard enough, but adding tiny humans to the mix makes it even harder. As mamas, we do our best to make sure these bug and pest-killing chemicals stay locked and out of reach of our little ones. Now there’s one more reason to be extra careful when trying to rid our kitchens of those pesky invaders.


A new study out this week finds that exposure to indoor pesticides may increase the risk of childhood cancers.

The researchers behind the study, which will be published in the October edition of Pediatrics, took a look at past studies and compiled the data, analyzing the correlation between exposure to pesticides and instances of childhood cancers.

After crunching the numbers, the researchers found that kids who had been exposed to indoor pesticides were 47 percent more likely to have leukemia and 43 percent more likely to have lymphoma. Both are among the most common types of childhood cancers, according to the CNN report on the study, but are also both rare.

One of the researchers, Chensheng Lu, who is an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told CNN that the new analysis “is confirming that pesticides may play a role, possibly a significant role, in the development of childhood leukemia and lymphoma.” But Lu did note that it’s still hard to say if exposure to indoor pesticides is a definite risk factor.

While whether or not indoor pesticides are a definite risk factor for childhood cancers is being determined, there’s plenty moms can do now to limit our kid’s exposure to these potentially harmful products.

  1. Limit access. In addition to keeping unused pesticides out of reach of small hands and in locked cabinets, try limiting access to the area the pesticides are being used. In our house, that means putting up gates to prevent tiny humans (and furry friends) from entering our kitchen. These include “professional pest control services, indoor flea foggers, flea and tick pet collars, and various roach and ant sprays,” according to The New York Times.
  2. Try natural or homemade solutions first. There are quite a few ways to get rid of ants without pesticides. These methods include outsmarting pests by removing sources of food or comfort from them, or utilizing soaps or even fans to encourage them to move on out.
  3. Be strategic. When you first notice ants or other pests, try to figure out how they’re getting into the house. That will help you identify the best places to put any traps. Some solutions allow you to put the bait right into the crack or crevice that the pests are using as their door to your house, which can help limit exposure.
  4. Read labels and directions. Before buying anything to get rid of pests, be sure to check out how it’s supposed to be used. The American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends avoiding bug bombs or broad spraying pesticides.
  5. Talk to your pediatrician. Got lice? Talk to your child’s doctor about options to get rid of lice without a pesticide. Specifically, AAP says you should avoid using lindane. Also, if you’re wary of insect repellant, talk to your pediatrician about options, and be sure to avoid spraying repellant on any cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
  6. Change your clothes. If you work with pesticides, either in the garden or at work, to avoid bringing your work inside your home, so to speak, change your clothes before you get home if possible. Also, consider keeping your shoes outside the house.
  7. Check your work. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests getting down to your child’s level, even crawling around on your hands and knees, to see make sure you didn’t miss anything.
  8. Don’t switch containers. Be sure to keep pesticides in the child-resistant packaging you purchased them in. This prevents any confusion down the road, ensuring that the chemicals can’t be mistaken for food or juice.
  9. Always close the container. Sometimes things happen – someone calls, the doorbell rings, naps end early – before walking away, always be sure to correctly seal the pesticide package, and be sure to put it somewhere out of reach of small hands.
  10. Have poison control’s number handy and know the signs of exposure. Symptoms of pesticide exposure or poisoning may look like the flu, according to the EPA. Those symptoms include headaches, dizziness, muscle twitching, weakness and tingling. If you notice any symptoms after your child has come into contact with a pesticide, or you catch your child in the act, contact poison control: 1-888-222-1222

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