Pesticides are commonly used in agriculture intended for destroying or preventing any mitigating pests like insects, weeds, mollusks, plant pathogens, and any other types of microbes and organisms considered harmful to properties. Please take note that pesticides are not only limited to chemicals used in agriculture but also extended to household pesticides used at home (lawn pesticides). Toxic chemicals like lead, arsenic and mercury was used dated back 2000 BC in killing pests for crops protection and have been transformed and changed to different mild pesticides like organophosphate as the time passes by. Nevertheless, the low toxicity in different levels according to several studies can still be harmful to health. Although these pest controls may help in some ways to agricultural workers and commoners, the use of pesticides has been in the subjects of debate for long time due to its implication to animal and human health, and even to our ecosystem. These toxic chemicals are linked to various diseases such as birth defects, autism, learning disabilities, lung diseases, reproductive dysfunction, cognitive impairment, and cancer.
The calling for drastic change to more environmental alternatives in agriculture is everywhere and never ceases to encourage the public to stop using pesticides as many scientific researches and clinical studies have proven the detrimental effects of these harmful chemicals. Proponents to this campaign are challenging the government to have assessment in the environmental rulemaking and create a regulatory body that would prompt to adopt environmental friendly and effective organic system that can outperform the chemical-intensive agriculture in times of drought.
It was reported in China that half a million people are subjected to pesticide poisoning each year, whereas 500 of these victims died instantaneously. The Bhopal disaster received attention and alarmed four corners of the world when a pesticide plant released toxic chemical known as methyl isocyanate which immediately killed almost 3, 000 people. For sure, we still have more unreported cases around the world with the same tragic stories of fatalities and casualties rooted from deadly chemicals used in pest control.
With this regard, it is imperative for all of us to have essential information on how these pesticides can impose threat to our health. Let us acknowledge some previous and recent researches done which delivered conclusive evidences to the public with an endless clamor to STOP USING PESTICIDES!
Who would have thought that new discovery revealed that people living in rural areas, most especially in agricultural community, are much exposed to many air pollutants leading to inhalation injuries and inflammatory reactions such as asthma and bronchitis. Over 6.5 million farmers including people who are in charge of processing and handling food products to the market are reported to have lung diseases. What factors accounted for air pollutants in the ideal and pristine environment? What else but the pesticides and herbicides used in farming. The chemical ammonia used as fertilizer is another factor for lung diseases because when ammonia reacted to water and form strong alkali, it can damage the airways. Moreover, toxic chemicals can be damaging to health as they enter the body through inhalation, the particles or dust can enter into the lungs and absorbed through digestive tract or skin. Some pesticides such as organophosphates can weaken respiratory muscle and others like methyl-bromide, carbondi-sulphide and chlorinated hydrocarbons may cause pulmonary fibrosis (scarring throughout the lungs) and hemorrhagic pulmonary edema that impair gas exchange leading to respiratory failure.
Among anyone else, children are the most susceptible and suffer the most from pesticides Some newly born child have birth defects and may also lead to death during the first year of their lives. Fetal or birth defects are considered functional abnormalities that cause mental or physical disabilities, ranging from mild to fatal cases.
In United States, the rate of fetal defects is linked when women are conceiving at times when agrichemicals in surface water are in elevated concentrations. This has been reported in 2009 issue of Acta Paediatrica claiming that the highest rate of U.S. babies with birth defect occurs during spring and summer months when high concentration of pesticides are found in surface water. In Florida, same cases happened in 2005 when three mothers born their babies with severe birth defects. These women are working in an agricultural company which produces chemically-treated tomatoes.
In one of the studies conducted by Harvard University, organophosphate exposure is linked to ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a kind of neurobehavioral disorder causing a child to be inattentive, impulsive, and hyperactive. Scientists claimed that pesticides have negative effects on fetus that manifests in growth and behavioral disorders. Moreover, millions of children are having this kind of disorder that according to study, a child exposed to some types of pesticide may increase by 50% chance to develop this neurobehavioral and developmental disorder.
In another pesticide related studies conducted by researchers of Harvard School of Public Health, they found that people exposed to any kind of pesticides (even low levels of toxicity) are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease by 70%. In 2008, a study published by Duke University also linked both herbicides and even insecticides to increase the risk of Parkinson’s. In United States, at least one million cases of this cognitive impairment are reported each year. People suffering from PD have symptoms of constipation, anxiety, sleep disturbances, sleep difficulties, dementia and depression. It occurs when nerve cells in the brain are damaged and can no longer produce nerve signaling molecule responsible for control muscle movement. Another cognitive impairment also linked to toxic chemicals of pesticides is Alzheimer’s diseases which is progressive and fatal to brain because it can destroy brain cells leading to memory loss behavioral problems.
Lots of related literature and studies are linking pesticides to reproductive dysfunction. The endocrine disruption can also alter animal and human fertility. Pesticides and other common household products are known to be endocrine disruptors which interact and damage endocrine system consists of set of glands and hormones responsible for reproduction, growth and development of life of animals and human being. In 2006 published study in Epidemiology journal, they found the effect of some pest control to male testosterone levels. In a study conducted to male participants, they found high levels of urinary carbaryl naphthalene and metabolites of chlorpyrifos which have correlation to low levels of testosterone in male.
People with exposure to pesticides are most likely to suffer from elevated risk of cancer. This has been long concern of many health experts, researches, environmentalists and proponents or organic products because of the tremendous health implications of carcinogen found in agricultural pesticides, 19-30 products lawn pesticides and 28-40 school pesticides. Starts from brain cancer wherein there are reported 30 studies linking insecticides with the development of nervous system of children ranging from 10 years of age or younger. Moreover, according to Breast Cancer Fund, one of the leading causes of death for women is breast cancer and can also be linked to high exposure to toxic chemicals of pesticides, lawn pesticides, and professional applications. Other types of cancers which are positively related to pesticides are leukemia (cancer of the blood-forming cells located in bone marrow), lymphoma (another type of blood cancer), prostate cancer (cancer in male reproductive system), soft tissue sarcoma (cancer which starts in the muscle or blood vessel causing to emotional and behavioral disorder), and many other types of cancer as the result of several studies with conclusive results. As pointed out by International Agency for Research on Cancer, there are almost 40 chemicals used in pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides that composed of carcinogen leading to irreparable damage of cancer to human life.
Safety of the Consumers
Consumers who do not have direct contact to pesticides are somehow affected with the residue of toxic chemicals left in vegetables and fruits, even after the careful washing. On the other hand, the Environmental Protection Agency in United States sets the standard on the pesticide manufacturers based on the amount and frequency of the pesticide application, the toxicity level of products and its breakdown, and how much residue left in foods by the time these are prepared and ready to market. If countries have strict regulations of international standards for Maximum Residue Limits or MRLs which monitor the levels of toxicity of residues left on foods for safety consumption, we are somehow safe. However, the strict rules are minimally observed and implemented in some countries because this will require long process, expensive cost, and thorough scientific risk assessments.
The extent of harmful effects to health imposed by these toxic pesticides are threat to consumers, farmers, workers, and close bystander in the process of manufacturing during and after consumption of chemically treated foods. Even a low-dose but long term exposure is related to any pesticide-related illnesses. So, it is imperative to have healthy options which are non-chemical alternatives and organic products that can totally replaced the use of pesticides.
Therefore, these organic foods and products offered in the market are reasonable to purchase even if it costs higher than any ordinary chemically treated foods and products. The harmful side effects of these toxic pesticides can be totally eradicated not only with strict compliance of manufacturers to safety rules set by the government, but most importantly, with totally change perspective of all the consumers to start thinking for their health, and for their environment.