Concern has arisen in recent years that the current pesticide regulatory system, which is intended to minimize health risk to the general population, may not adequately protect the health of infants and children. The traditional system assesses dietary pesticide risk on the basis of the average exposure of the entire U.S. population. However, it does not consider the range of exposures that exists within the population, nor does it specifically consider exposures of infants and children. The exposure of infants and children and their susceptibility to harm from ingesting pesticide residues may differ considerably from that of adults.

Concern about this uncertainty led the U.S. Congress in 1988 to request that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) appoint a committee to study scientific and policy issues concerning pesticides in the diets of infants and children through its National Research Council (NRC). The committee was specifically charged with examining.

  • what is known about exposures to pesticide residues in the diets of infants and children;

  • the adequacy of current risk assessment methods and policies; and

  • toxicological issues of greatest concern and in greatest need of further research.

PESTICIDE USE

A pesticide is defined under FIFRA as ''any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, or weeds, or any other forms of life declared to be pests, and any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant."

Pesticides have been used by humankind for centuries. Their use was recorded as early as the eighth century BC when the application of fungicides was documented in Homeric poems (Mason, 1928; McCallan, 1967). From the until the present, numerous mixtures have been developed to control fungi, insects, weeds, and other pests.

In the 19th century, sulfur compounds were developed as fungicides, and arsenicals were used to control insects attacking fruits and vegetables. Those compounds were highly toxic and consequently were replaced by chlorinated organic pesticides such as DDT and benzenehexachloride (BHC), which were developed during the 1930s and became widely used in the 1950s and 1960s. Chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides such as DDT, BHC, dieldrin, aldrin, and toxaphene were enthusiastically adopted by farmers who hoped to control previously uncontrolled insects with what were believed to be relatively safe compounds with long environmental persistence. These chemicals were also used widely in the control



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