Reckoning for Roundup and Art for Tots

The park our children use is routinely sprayed with the herbicide Roundup. Is that chemical safe, especially for children?

Ewa Bialkowski
San Jose, CA

The Center for Ethics and Toxics (CETOS) lists glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, as the most widely used pesticide by volume. The Monsanto Corporation, makers of Roundup, claims there is no evidence that glyphosate “causes carcinogenity, birth defects, neurotoxic effects or mutagenic effects.”

But CETOS Senior Associate Britt Bailey says that while glyphosate is in the “more benign category” of chemicals, Roundup is “very overrated in terms of its safety.” Polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), which she describes as three times more toxic than glyphosate, accounts for almost 15 percent of Roundup’s total volume.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave Roundup Pro its “least-precautionary” label, a study by the Taiwanese National Poison Center cited POEA as the cause of toxicity in the deaths of nine Japanese who ingested large amounts of the herbicide.

In 1997, Monsanto agreed to remove advertisements calling itself “environmentally friendly” after the New York attorney general’s office complained about the toxicity of Roundup’s inert ingredients, according to the CETOS web site. And Bailey says concern about child safety contributed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ decision to strictly limit pesticide use in public places.

Higher metabolisms and respiratory rates leave children “much more susceptible” to toxic chemicals in a product, Bailey says. Such biological differences, she adds, mean “children are not small adults” and, therefore, need more protection from potentially hazardous ingredients.


The Center for Ethics and Toxics
Tel: (707) 884-1700

My toddler loves to use art supplies like paint and clay. How safe are these products?

Oscar Gonzalez
Dallas, TX

When New York consumer safety groups collaborated to study children’s art programs in 1992, they found art supplies “containing at least 13 known or suspected carcinogens, two known or suspected mutagens, and eight known or suspected teratogens (chemicals capable of producing birth defects in developing fetuses).” Carcinogenic asbestos was recently found to be an ingredient in several brands of children’s crayons.

A Center for Safety in the Arts (CSA) report titled “Children’s Art Supplies Can Be Toxic” explains that the Federal Hazardous Substances Act allowed some products to be labeled “non-toxic” while not considering the potential for chronic health hazards to children. In 1988, the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act was passed to address these long-term threats. Supplies found to be safe for both acute and long-term use now print “Conforms to ASTM-D-4236” on packaging.

Although another labeling system developed by the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute uses the codes AP/CP for “approved product” or “certified product,” Ken Giles of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends using the “ASTM” as a guide. Keep in mind that, according to Giles, “No child’s art material should have any hazard label—at all.”

The CSA report suggests buying only supplies with listed ingredients and manufacturer contact information. It also reminds parents to supervise all activities and to avoid purchasing scented supplies, which encourage children to taste products.


CSA study

Tel: (301) 504-0990