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A Toxics-Free Future


Groups launch new international effort to protect children from “Terrible Twenty” pesticides

Paul Towers, PANNA, 916-216-1082,
Shila Kaur, PAN AP,

Groups launch new international effort to protect children from “Terrible Twenty” pesticides

Oakland, California – On the anniversary of Pesticide Action Network’s global “Dirty Dozen” campaign to phase out the most hazardous pesticides, members of the network in the U.S. and Asian region are kicking off a new effort today calling on governments around the world to take action on a new “Terrible Twenty” list of pesticides known to be particularly harmful to children’s health.

The new effort comes in the wake of recent strong scientific evidence linking pesticides that remain in widespread use worldwide to adverse impacts on children’s health and learning.

With the world using about 50 times more pesticides today than six decades ago, their harmful impact on the environment and human health has increased alarmingly – and evidence is growing that children are especially vulnerable. Though significant progress has been made on the original “Dirty Dozen,” including chemicals like lindane, DDT and the ‘drins’ (aldrin, dieldrin and endrin), the groups are globally ramping up efforts.

“Governments around the world have a responsibility to protect children from hazardous pesticides” said Medha Chandra, PhD, campaign coordinator for Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). “The legacy we leave our children begins with the actions we take today to restrict and phaseout pesticides most harmful to their health and intelligence.”

Aside from those used in agriculture and food production, toxic chemicals used in homes, schools, gardens and public places expose children to debilitating and life-long health problems including cancers, autism, birth defects, asthma and other childhood diseases and learning disorders.

“Infants are infinitely more sensitive to pesticides than adults. At the early stage of their lives their immune systems, their endocrine systems and their neurological systems are all still developing, their brains are developing and they're very sensitive to the effects of even very small doses of pesticides,” said Meriel Watts, PhD, senior scientific advisor to PAN Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), a New Zealand-based specialist on pesticides and author of Poisoning our Future: Children and Pesticides.

The new effort calls on governments of all levels to take more aggressive action to protect children’s health from pesticides, starting with immediate reductions in and restrictions on use. 

“Children are being born already contaminated with pesticides that will undermine their health and learning ability for the rest of their lives, is a tragedy beyond measure. It is up to every government to make sure that children are protected from these damaging chemicals by taking swift action to phase out and restrict use,” Dr. Chandra said.

Of the chemicals that make up the “Terrible Twenty,” some progress has already been made in the United States, but unfortunately, many of the chemicals are still widely used. For example, the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos is still widely applied to crops across the country, from corn to citrus and grapes. According to California officials, the only state to track use, over 1 million pounds were used in that state alone in the last year on record (2012).

“Children in rural communities are on the frontlines of exposure and often face multiple and repeated exposures to harmful pesticides. Not only do they face direct exposure to chemicals like chlorpyrifos through the air, but also through water and as residue on food. The problem lingers and neurotoxic pesticides continue to be sprayed around our communities with few safeguards,” said Irma Medellin, director of El Quinto Sol de America, a group based in California’s agriculture-rich San Joaquin Valley.

Today marks the anniversary of PAN International’s landmark 1985 “Dirty Dozen” campaign which targeted 12 extremely hazardous pesticides for bans or strict controls on production and use worldwide, and for their replacement with safe and sustainable pest control methods. It’s also marked by governments around the world as World Environment Day.  

By highlighting their impact on children, PAN AP and PANNA are calling for renewed action on the “Terrible Twenty” pesticides that have proven to be especially hazardous for children, namely: chlorpyrifos, monocrotophos, malathion, methamidophos, DDT, permethrin, diazinon, paraquat, propoxur, atrazine, dichlorvos, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, mancozeb, methyl parathion, carbaryl, chlorothalonil, parathion, lambda-cyhalothrin, and maneb.

The original “Dirty Dozen” included: 2,4,5-T, aldicarb, chlordane, chlordimeform, DBCP, DDT, “drins” (aldrin, dieldrin, endrin), EDB, HCH, heptachlor, lindane, paraquat, parathion, pentachlorophenol, toxaphene.

PANNA and PAN AP are encouraging people to get involved in the campaign here and here.



PANNA report: A Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children's health & intelligence

PAN AP report: Poisoning Our Future: Children and Pesticides

PAN UK briefing paper: List of Lists (including status of PAN Dirty Dozen)

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is a global network working to eliminate the human and environmental harm caused by pesticides and to promote biodiversity-based ecological agriculture. PAN Asia and the Pacific and PAN North America, are two of PAN’s regional centers.