Pesticides can impact anyone who comes into contact with them. Harmful exposure to pesticides can occur when people breathe, touch, or ingest pesticides. These exposures may occur during or after a pesticide application, and pesticides can travel away from their intended target via drift. Some pesticides can remain active in the environment long after they are applied.
Children, in particular, are susceptible to pesticide exposure and their negative health effects. Reasons include:
- Behavior: Common childhood behaviors- such as spending more time outdoors, playing on the ground, and putting objects in their mouths- can increase a child's risk for pesticide exposure.
- Physiological development: Children's bodies are rapidly maturing, and they are more vulnerable to interruptions or delays in key developmental milestones.
- Body size: Relative to their weight, children eat, drink, and breathe more than adults, increasing their exposure on a per-pound basis.
Women who are or may become pregnant and their fetuses are at greater risk for harmful health effects from pesticides. Individuals who apply pesticides, or spend time near places where they are applied, also have an increased risk of pesticide exposure compared to the general population.
Individuals who apply pesticides are at greater risk for exposure due to pesticide spills, airborne drift from the pesticide's intended target, or inappropriate handling of pesticides. Communities nearby areas where pesticides are frequently used also have an elevated risk of pesticide exposure.
The risk of pesticide exposure is not equal throughout California. Our 2014 report found that Hispanic school children were 91% more likely to attend a school near high pesticide use compared to white children.