Kids’ Brains on Pesticides
Scientists reach out to Salinas residents with practical tactics to reduce exposure.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Salinas children whose mothers were exposed to certain pesticides when they were pregnant are experiencing developmental delays, according to a study published April 21 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It’s one of a trio of recently released studies tracking childhood development and exposure to pesticides – and the most recent findings show 7-year-olds were performing at the level of 6½-year-olds.
Though the study, based on 329 Salinas Valley families, doesn’t prove causation, it shows a significant correlation between prenatal exposure to organophosphates and IQ.
About 30 concerned Salinas residents gathered Saturday night at the Bread Box Recreation Center in East Salinas to meet the lead scientist, Brenda Eskenazi, of UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, and Celina Trujillo, coordinator of the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (or CHAMACOS), for tips on minimizing pesticide exposure.
Among their simple recommendations: Shower before hugging children at the end of a work day in the fields to avoid transferring residue, and remove shoes before going home.
Retired field worker Marina Gomez, 49, agreed to participate in the study when she was pregnant with her fifth child in 1999. Gomez spent 17 years harvesting lettuce, strawberries and broccoli. Though she worked in the fields throughout her pregnancy, Gomez says her son, Brian, does well as a fifth grader. But Eskenazi’s findings give Gomez “a sadness for our people,” Gomez says. “It’s always on our minds.”
CHAMACOS, Berkeley’s partnership with Natividad Medical Center and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas for local outreach, so far has educated about 10,000 Salinas-area residents with such tips. “Just living here in the Salinas Valley, you’re going to be exposed to pesticides,” Trujillo say.
Considering the day-to-day practical constraints of farmworker life, CHAMACOS focuses on minimizing harm rather than pushing for outrightpesticides bans.
“We’re interested in presenting really good science to policy makers,” Eskenazi says.