27 No. 5
Teaching School Children About Pesticides and Health
Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides and other toxic chemicals because their bodies are smaller and still developing. Children also face greater exposures than adults due to their hand-to-mouth behaviors. Children living in farming areas or whose parents work in agriculture suffer greater pesticide exposure than other children. The aim of this joint project (between IUPAC and the World Health Organization [WHO]) is to educate children about protecting themselves from the harmful effects of pesticides and hazardous chemicals, and to develop a safety culture for the future. The training material shall include general facts about chemistry; risk assessment; POPs (persistent organic pollutants); pesticides; safe handling; preventing contamination; protecting oneself, others, and the environment from harmful effects; and how chemicals, especially POPs and pesticides, can affect human health and the environment.
The training materials will be prepared as CD-ROMs, booklets, and flip charts for use in countries with different levels of development. The materials might serve as the first part of a series “Toxicology in the Classroom” for use in chemistry classes.
|Kick-off meeting of task group in Berlin, in May 2005. From left to right: Axel Hahn, Fritz Schweinsberg, Lutz Rexilius, Nida Besbelli, Wayne Temple, and Birger Heinzow.
The project, as proposed, will provide a foundation of knowledge about pesticide use and safety in developing countries. Educating young people about pesticides and POPs as well as how to protect themselves from exposure is important worldwide. The main focus will be on pesticide modes of action, safe handling, and personal protection, with a minor focus on when and where they are appropriate. It may be more effective to emphasize a range of options about how to avoid exposure (use of protective equipment, better personal hygiene, etc.) and the potential dangers of not doing so.
Training programs shall include the whole family—parents and adolescent children—all of whom may be involved in the farming operations. Since the parents are responsible for both their children and for the misuse of pesticides they need to be made aware of the consequences.
A specific plan for promoting and distributing the material will be developed. The task group will seek advice on the compounds of greatest concern and most relevant risk as identified by the national poison control centers of developing countries and the WHO. Training tools will make use of available and scientifically sound information from government, industry, and other reliable sources. The Internet provides access to an enormous amount of information on environmental health science, including homework resources and online activities for students, lesson resources and classroom activities for teachers, and presentation materials for scientists. The task group will compile materials that might be suitable for use.
The educational material will be designed primarily for developing countries in Asia, South America, and Africa. The basic material will be written in English, but in a simple and easily translatable fashion.
The material will be targeted to 9–13 year olds, because this age group is in transition from guarded childhood to more independence and might be at higher risk. Also, children in this age group are often responsible for looking after their sisters and brothers and they influence the behavior of younger children. The project is not intended to train the students in safe handling, but to educate them about the risks and necessary precautions associated with pesticides (as well as their benefits) and hazardous compounds. The project will mainly develop pictograms for students and explanatory text (descriptions, definitions) for teachers.
Comments and recommendations are welcome. For more information contact Task Group Chairman Wayne A. Temple <[email protected]>.
last modified 22 August 2005.
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