Toxicology Expert Witness Discusses Effects of Pesticides

Stephen Gomez

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— Updated on December 19, 2017

Toxicology expert witness discusses effects of pesticidesThis case involves alleged pesticide/herbicide poisoning of the new residents of a house, resulting in the sickness and birth defects of two young children. A couple and their one-year-old son moved into the house in question, not knowing that the previous owners had sprayed the building to eliminate the pest population before moving out. After living in the house for two months, the previously healthy son began regularly showing signs of fatigue, nausea, and rashes. Due to their environmental concern, the couple researched and realized that the house had been exposed to pesticides. The family sent the child to live with relatives, temporarily, while they looked for a new home. Six months after relocating, the mother gave birth to their daughter a month premature and the daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome. A toxicologist expert witness was brought in to opine on the effects of pesticides.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Is it safe for young children and pregnant women to be exposed to pesticides, and what are the dangers of such an exposure?

Expert Witness Response

As a toxicologist, I have studied the relationship between pesticides and vulnerable parties such as young children and expectant mothers. It is not safe for small children to be exposed to pesticides since they are more vulnerable to pesticide poisoning than adults. Infants take more breaths per minute and have more skin surface relative to their body weight, making them susceptible to ingesting more of the pesticide. Also, as he was at the curious age of crawling around, this child probably spent more time closer to the ground, touching baseboards and other areas where pesticides may have been applied. In the case that a child is exposed, his or her immature liver and kidneys cannot remove pesticides from the body as well as an adult’s liver and kidneys. Though there have been no conclusive human pregnancy and pesticides studies, toxicology does suggest a connection between the two and recommend that expectant mothers should stay as far from pesticides as possible. Researchers have found that the highest rates of birth defects in babies occur among those conceived in the spring and summer, the same time that there are increased levels of pesticides in surface water. This data shows a statistically significant correlation between the last menstrual period and higher rates of birth defects, which raises the question of how other pesticides affect child development.

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