Because children are so small, their bodies are more easily harmed by chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. Small doses over time can lead to detrimental effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a nonprofit organization for pediatricians, recommends protecting children from pesticides because they have been linked to childhood cancers, behavioral problems, and decreased cognitive function. This is concerning, but there are ways that we can help decrease children's exposure to these chemicals.

Feed them organic

One important way to decrease pesticides is food. Feeding children organic foods has been shown to dramatically decrease pesticide exposure. Buying organic can be expensive, however if you stick to the clean 15 in conventionally grown produce, you will be on the right track. I’m loving that organic foods are becoming more readily available.

I have also found that there are often small, local farmers who aren’t certified organic, but they do follow organic protocols. If you go to produce stands or farmers markets, make sure you ask about their farming protocols, as you may be pleasantly surprised to know how clean they farm, and how low their prices are.

Use non-chemical bug control around the house

One very important way to decrease pesticides around the home is buy choosing more holistic and natural ways to deal with bugs around the home and yard (you can even deal with wasps naturally!). Children are not only more vulnerable to chemicals used around the home because they are small, but also because they are on the ground more than we are. One of my biggest regrets as a mother was the use of chemicals in our home to deal with a flea situation when my children were younger. They were both at ages when they were most vulnerable to the onslaught of chemicals. While it seemed unavoidable at the time, I believe it could have been avoided with better professional help. I recommend not repeating my mistake unless there really isn’t any other option. If you do end up using chemical pesticides, research the least toxic pesticide, and cut down on your kids' exposure as much as possible.

Limit use of chemical mosquito spray

We have chosen to use natural brands of bug spray (often made with essential oils) to avoid bug bites instead of using chemical counterparts. It’s one easy way to avoid exposure to yet another chemical, and I’ve found them to be just as effective.

Limit use of garden and yard pesticides and herbicides

It’s a lovely thing to grow your own garden, partly because it gives you control over what goes near your plants. There are many natural, chemical-free pesticide methods available, both DIY concepts and also in stores. I’ve found most of the natural methods effective. And I’d much rather have weeds in my lawn than herbicides, considering that weeds are harmless while chemicals are not.

Being a voice in the community

Children are exposed to pesticides and herbicides outside our homes as well. The AAP recommends that pediatricians (and I believe parents as well) be advocates for children in local schools and government for the safer use of pesticides for the sake of our children. One example is the exposure that children have to herbicides when playing on soccer fields. Being an advocate in the community for better and safer protocols in areas where there are children (such as parks and schools) is a gift not only to your own children, but other children in the community as well. 

Related on MNN:

5 ways to reduce kids' exposure to pesticides and herbicides
There are many reasons to protect children from an overload of chemicals. Here's how you can do it and why you should.