Aug 26, 2021

Impact of Pesticides on Child Farmworkers

Children are not miniature adults. The dangers in agriculture work impact child farmworks more severely than adults. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous professions in America. Consequently, kids who work in agriculture are the most vulnerable in America. The pesticides used to care for plants cause illness, long-term effects, and death in children living and working on farms.

Kids grow every day. Their reproductive, neurological, and immune systems develop at a pace where pesticides are more dangerous. Exposure to pesticides may impair a child’s growth and hinder brain development. Children eat more, need more water per unit of body weight than adults. They breathe more rapidly than adults. Children weigh less and metabolize at higher rates than adults. Thus more pesticides are consumed by children than adults.    

Kid farmworkers often do not have access to appropriate clothing for agriculture work. They work inappropriate clothing, exposing their skin to pesticides. Children workers wear flip-flops, cloth shoes, and go barefoot. Consequently, they are susceptible to higher rates of heat exhaustion, cuts and scrapes, and acute pesticide poisoning leading to long-term health effects. Most children are not informed of the dangers of pesticides or learn to shield their bodies from contact with pesticides. There are many documented cases of pesticides applied while children work spraying the plant and child. The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs interviewed children in farm work. All reported being sprayed directly by helicopter or plane.

Center for Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (C.H.A.M.O.C.O.S) studies the effect of chemicals on children born in Salinas Valley, California. CHAMACOS, found children born in this region with higher amounts of chemicals found in pesticides. Elevated levels of pesticide exposure in pregnant mothers are linked to autism-like spectrum traits by age two and loss of I.Q. by age seven. Children born in Salinas have lower I.Q., respiratory health problems, lower weights, and affected metabolism. The consequences of farmwork are devastating to children. There are still many unknown dangers to reveal. The known risks are enough to ban children from farmwork.    

A child is a witness to their parent’s trauma. Regardless of how hard they work, parents earning poverty wages in farmwork will continue to live in poverty. Children do not have to be told that any contribution will help the family financially. However, the small financial contribution is not worth the health of any child. 

The priority in farm work is the commodity harvested, not the children in the fields. The safety of children is a minor consideration in the pursuit of profit. Pesticides will not be banned for the health of children, so we must prohibit children from farm work.