Study finds patterns of chemical exposure in MN children – MPR News

Study finds patterns of chemical exposure in MN children – MPR News

Groups of children in north Minneapolis and in north central Minnesota were included in the study. 
A report from the state health department has found a pattern of exposure to chemicals in children across the state. 
The study was launched in 2018 in response to community concern about children’s exposure to air pollution and pesticides or chemicals in well water. Groups of children in north Minneapolis as well as three counties in north central Minnesota were included in the study. 
According to results released earlier this year, some of that community concern may be justified. 
“Overall, we did see that exposures to these chemicals were pretty widespread and common. So a variety of chemicals are making their way into children’s bodies,” said Jessica Nelson, a program director for the Minnesota Department of Health.
That’s the bad news. But the relatively good news is that the level of chemicals measured in children in the study were at lower or similar levels compared to the U.S. average in kids. 
Still, Nelson said the issue requires further research. Finding that a child has been exposed to a chemical doesn’t necessarily mean that the child’s health will be adversely affected. Scientists are still not sure what levels of exposure are unsafe for kids when it comes to the more than 20 chemicals this study measured. 
Children in rural areas of Minnesota were more likely to be exposed to a certain herbicide used on crops and on lawns. Specifically, there was a link between the proximity of a child’s residence to cornfields and how much of that pesticide might be found in their urine samples. 
In urban areas, there were links between a different chemical exposure and children whose homes were treated with a pesticide commonly used in mosquito control, pesticide sprays or bug bombs. The thought is this might be linked to a higher rate of home rental in urban areas, where homeowners might not have control over home maintenance. There was also higher exposure to air pollution for kids living in urban areas.
Researchers also studied arsenic exposure. They found that children who frequently ate rice were more likely to have arsenic in their systems.  
“Rice is a very healthy food that a lot of families eat. It’s an important part of many diets. So we want to provide recommendations for ways to keep eating rice but reduce the arsenic content in rice,” Nelson explained. “It’s things like choosing where rice comes from, rinsing and cooking rice in extra water, has been shown to help.  And then limiting consumption of other types of rice products like rice cakes.”
Other recommendations from the study include ways to prevent pest infestations in homes, or ways to deal with landlords on properties where there are pest infestations. But many of these recommendations are meant for individual families at this point, not bigger systemic recommendations. 
Nelson said the health department plans to expand their research to better understand pesticide exposure. The next step is to look at a bigger sample of kids across the state over five years to learn more about exposure to chemicals and determine recommendations for making homes and neighborhoods safer places to live. 
“Children’s developing bodies are especially vulnerable to chemicals in our environment and these results are helping us learn about potential ways Minnesota kids may be coming in contact with certain chemicals,” Nelson said. “Having a better understanding of this gives us a solid foundation for developing new approaches to limit harmful exposures.”
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