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Farm Worker's Kids Show High Pesticide Exposures

Immigrant families may be at risk, scientists say

THURSDAY, July 20, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Tests suggest that the children of immigrant farm workers in North Carolina have high levels of potentially harmful pesticides.

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., collected urine samples from 60 children, ages 1 to 6, of farm workers in six counties. The samples were analyzed for evidence of exposure to widely used organophosphate insecticides.

The levels found in the children's urine were higher than those found in other parts of the United States, the team reported in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. However, the researchers said, they didn't know if the levels were high enough to harm the children.

It is known that high levels of exposure to organophosphate pesticides can cause coma and death, and that long-term exposure at lower levels can increase the risk of birth defects, cancer, and sterility, the study authors noted.

"Efforts to reduce the exposure of these children to pesticides must be redoubled. While science grapples with the question of 'how much is too much?' measures need to be taken to minimize exposure," lead researcher Thomas Arcury, professor of family and community medicine at the university, said in a prepared statement.

In a second study, the Wake Forest researchers found that many wives of immigrant farm workers in North Carolina and in Virginia did not understand how to protect their children from pesticide exposure.

The researchers said pesticide safety training for farm workers should be expanded to include their families. This could be done through brochures or videos that can be brought home.

The second study was published in the journal Health Education & Behavior.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more about pesticides and child safety.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, July 17, 2006
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