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Fifteen Years: Remembering Katherine


Fifteen years ago today, my eight-year-old daughter Katherine died of a preventable leukemia caused, we have every reason to believe, by mosquito spraying with chlorpyrifos, without permission or notification. Most parents cannot imagine what it is like to wake up and find their beloved child dead beside them. Let’s fight to make sure fewer parents ever do.

This week, as part of my MPH internship, I begin working with the Great Lakes Center for Children’s Environmental Health to distribute educational materials to Pediatrician and OB/Gyn offices in the Chicago Region. Anyone should feel free to email me (jkauth@ben.edu) for copies to take to their own providers. If only we had known that this pernicious practice still existed — of broadcast spraying deadly pesticides down streets, in homes, coating every object and piece of vegetation — we would have stopped it. We did stop it, too late for Katherine. And mosquito spraying is only one route for exposure. But right now, you and I can work to help prevent children’s exposures today and tomorrow, exposures that often cause cancer, autism, ADHD, lower IQs, birth defects, and auto-immune disease. Pesticide exposures even contribute to the obesity epidemic. If we can reduce the average person’s exposure to tobacco smoke, with long-lasting health benefits for all, we can do the same thing for exposure to toxics.

I laid flowers on my daughter’s grave tonight — including one of hers, pink, her favorite color — but that is not how I will remember her. I will remember my daughter by working every day to right the terrible injustice that killed her, that deprived her of all these years she should have had with us. That is what, in her precocious wisdom, she would have expected of me.

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Resources for Providers

Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU)


PEHSU’s Pediatric Environmental Toolkit


Great Lakes Center for Children’s Environmental Health


USCF: Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment: Clinical Practice


National Environmental Education Foundation: Health


EPA: Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings


Midwest Pesticide Action Network


American Academy of Pediatrics Statement on Pesticides


President’s Cancer Panel 2010: Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk


TENDR Consensus Statement


CDC Biomonitoring Project


Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA): Generation in Jeopardy

http://www.panna.org/resources/publication-report/report-generation-jeopardy or http://www.panna.org/resources/kids-frontline

Environmental Working Group (EWG): Dirty Dozen, Cosmetics, Ten Americans

https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php or http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ or http://www.ewg.org/news/videos/10-americans

CDC / ATSDR Environmental Health and Medicine Education: CME credit


Healthy Fish Choices: CME credit


Green Kids Doc Blog


Poisoning Children Blog



Last Chance to Speak out against Chlorpyrifos!

Pesticide Action Network (PANNA) offers a customizable petition to speak out against one of the worst pesticides around. Abundant evidence of the harm to children has been around for decades, yet it has not been banned, despite the EPA’s own recommendations before the election. I and both my children were acutely ill from exposure, and my daughter went straight from acute symptoms of exposure to leukemia. If only a generation previous had banned it, as they should have, she would have been twenty-three years old right now.

I mentioned Katherine, and all the other children who are affected by childhood cancer, autism, ADHD, and lowered IQs. Bouchard and others showed in 2011 that the children with the top fifth highest levels of chlorpyrifos in their blood were seven IQ points lower than those in the bottom fifth, and that’s not zero. This is one study showing one effect on children, but there are hundreds if not thousands of others. You can read more on my blogs here or here.

Visit Panna at http://www.panna.org/take-action/epa-follow-science-chlorpyrifos to make your comments.

EPA, follow the science on chlorpyrifos


14,002 Signatures Collected
Only 11,598 more until our goal of 25,600

To: Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator
From: Jean-Marie Kauth

Dear Administrator Pruitt,

The sudden reversal of your agency’s plans to get chlorpyrifos off the market was shameful. The March 29 decision cannot stand. All chlorpyrifos uses must be banned to protect children, workers and consumers from this brain-harming chemical.

The science is in: There are no safe uses of chlorpyrifos. Prenatal exposures to this chemical are associated with reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders and delayed motor development. Whenever chlorpyrifos is sprayed, it can cause immediate and long-term health harms to kids, farmers, farmworkers and others who are exposed.

In its latest risk assessment of chlorpyrifos, your agency’s scientists determined that:

* All food exposures exceed safe levels, with children ages 1-2 exposed to levels of chlorpyrifos that are 140 times what the EPA deems safe.
* There is no safe level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water.
* Chlorpyrifos is found at unsafe levels in the air at schools and homes in communities in agricultural areas.
* All workers who mix and apply chlorpyrifos are exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide, even with maximum personal protective equipment and engineering controls.

Action on this neurotoxic chemical is long overdue. We insist that you follow your own scientists’ recommendations and take action to ban chlorpyrifos.

Fight against the new Anti-EPA!

Dear Readers,
I just donated to Earthjustice–because the earth needs a #goodlawyer! Join me: http://ejus.tc/2gKu2nW Earthjustice is fighting the reckless decision to approve the pesticide that killed our beloved daughter Katherine. Scott Pruitt does not care in the least how many of our precious children are killed by indiscriminate use of pesticides and other environmental chemicals. Chlorpyrifos has been linked to childhood cancer, autism, ADHD, and many other maladies. Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA is now working against its own mission to protect Americans from environmental hazards; rather, it is working to blind us to the damage done by the chemical and fossil fuel industries.

Voted for Trump? You will have had a hand in many more deaths like Katherine’s


Does that sound harsh? Harsh is waking up to the news that decades of work by scientists, activists, and environmental groups to ban the chemical that killed your daughter has been undone in one moment by an imbecile with no respect for truth or evidence, people or planet. If you voted for Trump and didn’t see this coming, you didn’t do your homework. Climate Change Denier and Head of the Trump EPA Scott Pruitt ignored his own scientists’ recommendations to ban chlorpyrifos, linked for decades to childhood cancer and significant neurocognitive impacts, and instead kowtowed to its producer, Dow Chemical. Children are constantly exposed to this chemical through food residues, contaminated drinking water, and pesticide drift from farm fields. Katherine was poisoned by mosquito spray, an application still permitted under current law, without permission or notification of residents. There are decades of evidence of chlorpyrifos’s acute and chronic toxicity, beginning with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring — in 1962! Not banning this chemical sooner has meant the death of my beloved first-born child and countless others. There is not a person reading this who can protect their loved ones from exposures like this, regardless of income level and privilege. Once released into the environment, organophosphates like chlorpyrifos can drift and cause untold damage. Once brought inside through pesticide drift, mosquito application, or contamination on shoes, chlorpyrifos takes months to break down. And this is only one such pesticide and one such environmental threat. If Trump’s proposed 31% cut to the EPA passes, expect increases in childhood asthma, ADHD, autism, auto-immune disease, cancer, and more. Gone are our clean water and air.  Sadly, any government website, including the EPA and CDC, can no longer be trusted, and data is being deleted daily. Climate Change? Forfeiting the meager gains of the Paris Agreement will mean hundreds of thousands of additional deaths in coming years. It is no exaggeration at all to say that the future of civilization is under threat.

Abraham Lincoln once said “What is morally wrong cannot be politically correct.” He also reportedly said “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” This is the time for speaking out, for vehemence, even for truculence. Any friend I lose for posting the truth about the death of children, including my own, is well lost. Did you vote for Trump? It is not too late to oppose him — in the name of dead children, past and future, and the dead planet towards which we are tending.

Contact Scott Pruitt – Head of the EPA
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/EPA
Twitter: @EPAScottPruitt
Scott Pruitt – Head of the EPA – has decided to ignore the science and the recommendation of his own agency and has chosen not to ban a widely used but seriously harmful insecticide. Contact him to tell him this is not acceptable.
Thanks to Jen Breese for this suggestion.

The Role of the State in Regulating Disease and Death


This week, my Public Health Policy class asked us to debate a thesis about whether or not government should play a role in regulating behaviors that cause increases in death and disease. In the past, this kind of question might have seemed too obvious for debate; now such basic questions have gained in urgency and poignancy, as we face the destruction of even the most basic protections offered by the EPA.

The state absolutely has a legitimate role “in modifying, discouraging, burdening or even prohibiting behaviours that increase both morbidity and mortality.” I will leave aside such behaviors as truly affect only the individual, like, perhaps, obesity, even though the case could be made, on the basis of increased health care costs for all alone, that this too should be discouraged, perhaps by taxes on unhealthy food. But many of the behaviors that people feel entitled to engage in that increase morbidity and mortality do so by directly causing illness and death in other people. The famous dictum is that my right to swing my arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins. Well what about the chemical plume put out by industry, or the mercury and particulates emitted by coal-burning power plants, or the chlorpyrifos sprayed for mosquitoes on some summer night, without notifying or seeking permission from residents: where do those stop? I will tell you. They don’t stop. They end up contaminating every human being on the face of the earth to one extent or another, including Inuit with low-impact lifestyles whose breastmilk is among the most toxic on Earth because of their consumption of marine mammals; including people who live in the most remote reaches of southeast Asia, who burn Western electronics in open burn pits; including every single infant ever born now, and all those born for the foreseeable future (CDC 2009). We are all contaminated with hundreds of carcinogenic, mutagenic, and neurotoxic chemicals, and those are just the ones we know to test for (CDC 2009). The vast majority of the 80,000+ synthetic chemicals in production today in the U.S. have never been tested for safety, not even in the short-term, single-substance animal trials that pass for testing now. And this is the state of things WITH an EPA. People tend not to notice those things done to protect them. That is the nature of Public Health. Very few take the time to thank those researchers of past decades who decreased morbidity and mortality and saved their children by developing vaccines and antibiotics and sanitation and other public health measures — because they cannot know with certainty that it was their children who would have been saved. People forget that air and water are visibly and substantially cleaner than before the Clean Air and Water Acts of the 70s. People also tend not to notice a vast excess of morbidity and mortality when the link between cause and effect is obscured, by time, distance, or the deliberate efforts of an industry protecting selfish economic interests. But that is the case now with the increase in cancer, autism, ADHD, lower IQs, and higher rates of birth defects, auto-immune disease, diabetes, and obesity (PANNA 2016; AAP 2012; PCP 2010). All of these are linked to indiscriminate use of environmental chemicals. So yes, I would say it is one of the chief purposes and duties of the government to regulate such behaviors—because they have imperiled some and deprived others of their essential right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As Rachel Carson wrote more than 50 years ago, “If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem (Carson 1962, pp. 12-13). If only we had heeded her warnings, Katherine might now have been alive.



American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). (2012). Statement on pesticides. Pediatrics 130 (6). Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/6/e1757

Carson, R. (1962). Silent spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). (2016). Kids on the frontline: How pesticides are undermining the health of rural children. Retrieved from https://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/KOF-report-final.pdf

President’s Cancer Panel (PCP). (2010). Reducing environmental cancer risk: What we can do now. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualReports/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf

One More Day to Comment on Regulating Toxics

One huge difference individuals can make in the kinds of chemicals we are all exposed to is by commenting directly on the EPA Public Comments site. Often, the automatic comments sent through activist sites like the Environmental Defense Fund are not counted in the total number of comments because they are seen as copy and paste.  It’s best to actually write your own argument for tighter regulation of chemicals. We have the power to make a difference — but only through real effort.

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Here are my comments on two issues:

Frank Lautenberg Acthttps://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0658-0001

EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0658: Environmental Chemicals

Jean-Marie Kauth, PhD

January 14, 2017

Please support the EPA’s efforts to bring the New Chemicals Review Program into compliance with the Lautenberg Act, under Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0658.

One of the gravest threats to human health, and particularly to the health of children, is the lack of oversight and indiscriminant use of toxic chemicals. There are currently more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals on the market in the U.S., very few of which have ever been tested for safety, much less tested with a method that reproduces the way we are exposed to them: in combination and over whole lifetimes. Every baby now born is born contaminated with hundreds of toxic chemicals, and many of the greatest disease killers of modern life are associated with this life-long exposure. I know because my own daughter died of leukemia we have every reason to believe was caused by exposure to mosquito spraying with chlorpyrifos, a highly toxic organophosphate, without our knowledge or permission. Katherine was diagnosed at 4 and died at 8. It is no exaggeration at all to say it ruined our lives.

The CDC Biomonitoring Project tracks the body burden of Americans, measuring levels of 212 different environmental chemicals that are of concern because they are likely carcinogens, mutagens, neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors, or all of the above (2009). Abundant evidence shows that many of these chemicals are correlated with increases in disease in both children and adults: cancer, autism, ADHD, lower IQs, birth defects, asthma, auto-immune disease, diabetes, and obesity (EPA 2016a; PANNA 2016). The President’s Cancer Panel (PCP 2010) estimates that a much higher proportion of cancers than previously identified are caused by environmental factors, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has identified pesticides as a major contributor to childhood cancers and neurocognitive defects (2012). Many of these health effects disproportionately affect minority and low-income communities, particularly those exposed to industrial pollution (EPA 2016a).

Under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), all chemicals at the time were grandfathered in, and the standards for banning chemicals were so high that only six substances were ever successfully banned, and the ban on asbestos was overturned in court. Even known carcinogens, mutagens, and neurotoxins can be produced and sold if there is some economic benefit shown, a low bar for the Chemical Industry to clear. The Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act passed both houses with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama June 22, 2016 (EPA 2016b), and it recognized a growing realization that unregulated environmental contaminants pose an enormous public health threat. Unfortunately, it is not always enough to pass laws that support regulation – further work is needed. The New Chemical Review Program is one policy by which the act can be put into practice, but with pushback from the chemical industry and the new administration’s antipathy towards regulation of any kind, and environmental regulation most particularly, any positive practical action needs vehement support.

The bipartisan support for the Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was quite notable given how divided our government has become, particularly on environmental issues. It could be that educational campaigns by activist groups, as well as the soaring rates of diseases like autism and cancer, are persuading people that regulating chemicals is essential to protecting the lives of those they love. The chemical industry has huge influence over the general public, as well as powerful, sometimes unethical, sway over the regulatory agencies that are meant to police it. Please resist such influence, for the sake of our children. The interchange among industry, lobbyists, and regulatory agencies has been popularized by credible documentaries like Food, Inc (Kenner 2008). Supporting policies that regulate and restrict indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals on the federal, regional, and local level is essential and may well have lasting and extensive effects on the health of the population, just as the lack of regulation and the increasing use of toxic chemicals has done in harming human health in the last few decades. Included among the tragic numbers of prematurely dead is my eight-year-old daughter, Katherine, who wanted more than anything to finish learning cursive, swim outside with her brother, adopt a baby so she could watch it grow, and live to be an old lady.



American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). (2012). Statement on pesticides. Pediatrics 130 (6). Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/6/e1757

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2009). Fourth national report on human exposure to environmental chemicals. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/pdf/fourthreport.pdf

Environmental Defense Fund. (2016). How the Lautenberg Act fixes TSCA problems. Retrieved from http://www.edfaction.org/campaigns/toxic-chemicals/how-lautenberg-act-fixes-tsca-problems

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2016a). Children’s environmental health facts. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/children/childrens-environmental-health-facts

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2016b). The Frank R. Lautenberg chemical safety for the 21st century act. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/frank-r-lautenberg-chemical-safety-21st-century-act

Kenner, R., Dir. (2008). Food, Inc. Eric Schlosser & Michael Pollan.

Midwest Pesticide Action Center (MPAC). (2016). Maintaining healthy parks. Retrieved from http://midwestpesticideaction.org/what-we-do/maintaining-healthy-parks/

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). (2016). Kids on the frontline: How pesticides are undermining the health of rural children. Retrieved from https://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/KOF-report-final.pdf

President’s Cancer Panel (PCP). (2010). Reducing environmental cancer risk: What we can do now. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualReports/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf

UIC School of Public Health. (2016). The Great Lakes center for children’s environmental health. UIC School of Public Health. Retrieved from http://www.glrppr.org/contacts/org_view.cfm?orgid=300


CHLORPYRIFOS: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0653-0402

It was with horribly mixed feelings that I hailed the possible end of chlorpyrifos, the pesticide that killed my beloved daughter Katherine. Of course it is good that we will not be poisoning our children in this one particular way in future. But saying “hurrah, we are poisoning fewer children” feels a lot like a celebration of the damning question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” “Have we stopped poisoning our children?”

The answer is no. Chlorpyrifos is a horrible chemical, both acutely toxic, as I know first-hand from my own exposures, and a chronic cause of cancer, ADHD, lower IQs, birth defects, autism, and the list goes on. It is no exaggeration at all to say that it has affected most children to one degree or another, and particularly those of my children’s generation. One billion pounds of pesticides are used every year in the U.S., over 6 million pounds of it chlorpyrifos. An estimated one in four children has lost IQs points to chlorpyrifos. In a study that measured the effects of chlorpyrifos on IQ, the children in the top 20% exposed were 7 IQ points lower than those in the lowest quintile, and these children were not at zero (Bouchard et al. 2011). Normal is 100; genius is 130. Exposures like these have shifted the entire intelligence curve significantly to the left. So don’t blame educators if this generation seems dimmer than the previous one. And don’t blame the kids. In a study of chlorpyrifos exposure through food, every child on a conventional diet showed metabolites of the pesticide in their urine; after just two weeks on an organic diet, those levels declined to non-detectable levels (Lu et al. 2006). Even very low levels affected children’s brains, and abundant evidence testifies to the fact that chlorpyrifos has been responsible for many children dead or ill from cancer (PAN 2013; AAP 2012; Rauh et al. 2011; Rull et al. 2009, Eskanazi 2007; Zahm and Ward 1998), many children forever changed by autism or ADHD (Shelton et al. 2014; de Cock et al. 2012; Grandjean and Landrigan 2006).

Chlorpyrifos is only one chemical in the family of organophosphates. And organophosphates are only one family in the slew of toxic chemicals we are heedlessly pouring into our bodies and the environment, which are, we have found, basically the same thing. Everything is connected, as Pope Francis has cogently reminded us.

The European Union (EU) has completely different laws regulating pesticides. Their new theory is that it is the people, not the chemical companies, who need to be protected. Chemicals should not be presumed innocent until proven guilty, considering the obvious fact that many of them do indeed cause terrible harm; instead that privilege should be accorded to the real innocents, who should be protected against chemicals unless there is some reason to believe that the substances to which they are unavoidably exposed are NOT harmful.

It is great if my letter and the letters of all those parents of dead children, and the letters of all the hard-working scientists FINALLY make a difference. The EPA could have chosen to do so on June 6, 2000, when they put limits on chlorpyrifos, banning its use in daycares, malls, nursing homes, and schools. We remember that day and thought for a while our family would be protected then. But the EPA didn’t institute a full ban, allowing reserves to be used, allowing continued use in agriculture, pest control, and we found to our harm, mosquito spraying. And now it is too late for all those dead children. It is far too late for our daughter Katherine. She was perfectly beautiful, deeply loving, and absolutely brilliant – the most brilliant person I ever knew. And she died a slow, miserable death at the age of eight because a chemical company wanted to make money and our political system did not have the political will to protect our children. And Katherine was just one of many.

If the ban goes through, and it must, there has been a victory for right, but we are still losing the war for our children’s health.


American Academy of Pediatrics. 2012. Policy statement: Pesticide exposure in children. Pediatrics 130(6):e1757-e1763. Available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/6/e1757.full

Bouchard MF, Chevrier J, Harley KG, Kogut K, Bedar M, Calderon N, Trujillo C, Johnson C, Bradman A, Barr DB, Eskenazi B.   2011 Aug. Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and IQ in 7-year-old children. Environ Health Perspect 119(8): 1189-1195.

de Cock M, Maas YGH, van de Bor M. 2012. Does perinatal exposure to endocrine disruptors induce autism spectrum and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders? Review. Acta Pædiatrica 101:811-818.

Eskenazi B, Marks AR, Bradman A, Harley K, Barr DB, Johnson C, et al. 2007.   Organophosphate pesticide exposure and neurodevelopment in young Mexican-American children. Environ Health Persp 115(5):792-8.

Grandjean P, Landrigan PJ. 2006. Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals: A silent pandemic. Lancet 368:2167-2178.

Lu C, Toepel K, Irish R, Fenske RA, Barr DB, Bravo R. 2006. Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environ Health Perspect 114(2):260-263.

Pesticide Action Network (PAN). 2013. A generation in jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health & intelligence. Available from http://www.panna.org/publication/generation-in-jeopardy

Rauh V, Arundjadai S, Horton M, Perera F, Hoepner L, Barr DB, et al. 2011. Seven-year neurodevelopmental scores and prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, a common agricultural pesticide. Environ Health Perspect 119:1196-1201.

Rull RP, Gunier R, Von Behren J, Hertz A, Crouse V, Buffler PA, Reynolds P. 2009. Residential proximity to agricultural pesticide applications and childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Environmental Research 109:891-899.

Shelton JF, Geraghty EM, Tancredi DJ, Delwich LD, Schmidt RJ, Ritz B, Hansen RL, Hertz-Picciotto I. 2014. Neurodevelopmental disorders and prenatal residential proximity to agricultural pesticides: The CHARGE study. Environ Health Persp 122(10):1103-9.

Zahm SH, Ward S. 1998. Pesticides and childhood cancer. Environ Health Perspect Supp 106:893.



Pesticides Killed Four Children Outright, Thousands More Over Time

4childrenA pesticide poisoning incident in Amarillo, Texas is making headlines this week. Four children out of nine family members who were rushed to a hospital have already died from the phosphine gas released when aluminum phosphide pesticides put under the mobile home were sprayed with water in a vain effort to mitigate their effect on the family.

Did Pedro Balderas, the children’s father, make a mistake in using pesticides to get rid of a rodent problem under the home? Yes, of course he did. But the consequences of his mistake are out of all proportion to the mistake. Who would ever get over losing four children: Yasmeen, 17; Josue, 11; Johnnie, 9; and Felipe, 7? Families can easily assume that products available to them are basically safe; after all, consumers can sue over hot coffee or fatty foods at McDonald’s. Who would think there were so many chemicals on the market that can kill people outright, even without physical contact? The bipartisan Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act is tightening regulations up a little, but there is still almost no regulation of hazardous chemicals, pesticides in particular.

Moreover, it’s not just the parents who choose to use these chemicals whose children die. Our beloved Katherine was exposed to acutely toxic doses of chlorpyrifos used for mosquito spraying without our knowledge or permission. All we did was leave the windows open on a beautiful summer evening. Children eating conventionally raised food are routinely exposed to a variety of pesticides. Many lawns, sports fields, and even schools are routinely treated with hazardous pesticides ranging from pyrethroids to organophosphates to glyphosate. These chemicals have been conclusively linked to higher rates of cancer, cognitive deficits, ADHD, lower IQs, autism, and auto-immune disease. Overall, the number of children dying from chronic disease caused by these chemicals far outweighs the acute poisonings — it’s just that these deaths do not make headlines: the association is more difficult to assign with certainty, and there is a delay in the death, an invisibility in the suffering. Humans are notoriously bad at assessing risk, more likely to be afraid of flying in airplanes than smoking cigarettes. This is another example of how we choose to suffer many preventable deaths in silence while flooding social media with news of a few that make for a more spectacular story. Cancer is the number one disease killer and second leading killer overall of children, and the cancer rate has been steadily increasing with increased chemical exposures. Between 1992 and 2012, more than 234,000 U.S. children were diagnosed (PANNA 2016). Thousands of children in the U.S. alone have died from reckless use of pesticides. Autism rates are skyrocketing and IQs declining, with devastating effects on families. We are deliberately causing death, disease, and horrible suffering in our precious children — and ourselves — for so little in return: fewer pests, greener grass — all things our great grandparents did without or dealt with in other ways.

So please, before you buy harmful chemicals like pesticides, hire a company to apply them for you, or otherwise opt for an easy but toxic solution for a minor problem, think twice. Think about Yasmeen, Josue, Johnnie, and Felipe — and think of Katherine.



Pesticide Action Network (PANNA). 2016. Kids on the frontline: How pesticides are undermining the health of rural children. Retrieved from https://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/KOF-report-final.pdf 

U.S. Congress. 2016.  S. 697 — Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/697/all-info

Wang, A.B. 2016. 4 children killed after pesticide released toxic gas underneath their home, police say. Washington Post, January 3. Retrieved from  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/01/03/4-children-killed-after-pesticide-released-toxic-gas-underneath-their-home-police-say/?utm_term=.c47ab384bd54

Yan, H., Nottingham, S., & Stapleton, A. 2016. Texas pesticide deaths: Chemical may have sickened, but cleanup was fatal.  CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/03/health/texas-pesticide-deaths/