Cancer, children, the EPA and you


  1. Are cancer causing pesticides prohibited by the EPA and other government agencies?
  2. Does the EPA or any other government agency try to especially approve pesticides that are safe to use around our children?
  3. Is cancer is the usual consequence of long term exposure to pesticides?



  1. Not necessarily. Seven years ago a panel of cancer experts from the National Cancer Institute created by Congress investigated ingredients in pesticide products sold in the United States. Their conclusions? That about 40 ingredients classified by the World Health Organization as known, probable or possible cancer causing chemicals were used in various American pesticide products.

Moreover, since these chemicals were used in a number of pesticide products the number of potentially causing cancer pesticides on the market was far greater, and this number did not include those ‘inactive’ or ‘inert’ materials that are not tested by the government.

Farm workers especially have a high risk of a variety of cancers including leukemia, various skin cancers, as well as cancers of the brain, stomach, and prostrate. Most lawn and school playing field pesticides also have been linked to various cancers.

Over two years ago, the World Health Organization found that the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate – one of the worlds most popular weed killers – was a probable cancer causing pesticide.  Although Roundup’s maker, Monsanto, claimed glyphosate is safe, a lawsuit back in March discovered that an EPA official had sought to cancel the EPA research and Monsanto had written ‘research’ attributed to academic researchers.

At the same time, the Trump administration canceled tests of corn syrup grown with Roundup Ready corn for residues of glyphosate that had been part of over a year of research. Corn syrup is in thousands of foods.


  1. Children are just lumped in with adult population, even though children are especially vulnerable while their bodies and brains are growing. Children eat more than adults given their weight and eat a lot of foods and snacks that may contain pesticide residue. Questions abound about the impact of pesticide residues in food children consume. Worldwide, we are seeing more childhood autism, asthma, and childhood cancers.

Changes in IQ and verbal comprehension have been found in children whose pregnant mothers lived within a mile of California crop fields where pesticides using neurotoxins – those that affect the nervous system – were used. Argentina saw a quadrupling of birth defects after 10 years of genetically engineered Roundup Ready soybeans.

  1. Although cancers can be a major outcome of long term exposure to pesticides, neurotoxicity can be at least as likely. Neurotoxicity can disrupt and kill neurons, those essential cells that send and process signals to the brain and other parts of the nervous system.

This disruption and killing of neurons can cause memory loss – it may be one cause of Alzheimer’s – behavioral and cognitive problems, loss of vision, sexual dysfunction, and weakness of arms and legs. Five years ago the World Health Organization reported that the world wide low birth rates may be due to neurotoxicity creating low semen levels and preterm births and low birth weights.

Furthermore, neurotoxicity may play a major role in the increase of autism, attention deficit disorder, and cerebral palsy, as well as endocrine type cancers such as thyroid cancer, endured by both my mother and my wife’s brother.


These questions and answers are substantially modified from Sharon Tisher’s brilliant, “A Pesticides Quiz and Primer: 2017 Update”, that appeared in the Maine Farmers and Growers Association Bulletin.


Material used with permission.

Bill Baker

About Bill Baker

Bill's interest in a clean place to live is rooted in growing up in the country – a cornfield across the road and fields, sandstone cliffs and hundreds of acres of woods where he spent many hours.