Negative Impact of Pesticides on Human Health

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Pesticides have caused many health problems, not just a few but a lot more than that. There have been many concerns for more than 35 years concerning the health risks associated with pesticides that include health problems as drastic as cancer (Egendorf 43). It has been known for a while now that anyone who closely works with the chemicals can harm and potentially kill them leading to the side effects on skin, brain, eyes, and lungs (Egendorf 43). More serious complications maybe kidney failure, liver failure, or even cancer (Egendorf 43). Not only do pesticides have an outcome on those who are directly in front of it but it also impacts those who buy and consume produce. A report from World Health Organization and United Nations Environmental Programme (WHO/UNEP 1989) has determined that there are about 1 million pesticide poisonings in humans and about 20,000 deaths each year in the world (Pimentel et al.). Knowing that pesticides are causing these serious problems in humans is scary to even think about. When an individual is consuming foods with residues of pesticides, they are becoming exposed and are now at risk. Because of the fact, farmworkers work directly with pesticides and are exposed to 70-80% of the chemicals, they are found to be at the highest risk (Pimentel, D., et al.). Children and pregnant women are also at higher risk because they are going through a developmental stage and can be more sensitive to the exposure. In 2001-2002, studies show that low concentration levels were found in women going through the reproductive stage and high levels of pesticides were found in breast milk (Eskenazi et al.). As you can see, those who are reproducing or growing can be at a higher risk of toxic chemicals. Knowing what is being consumed is important because at any time anyone can be at risk of the side effects that these toxic chemicals are giving off. Pesticides are affecting humans in harmful ways and caution should be alerted so people are aware of what they are dealing with.

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Pesticides affect the foods being consumed in harmful ways but eventually rules and regulations were put in place to help limit the use of the toxins. For example, Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is a chemical that was used in pesticides until harmful hazards were exposed and the chemical was banned. It was originally thought to be a great chemical that could kill all kinds of insects, pests, and rodents. DDT was helpful and efficient until later on when side effects were found harmful. DDT was said to be showing up in U.S. foods, specifically dairy products and not only killing animals such as birds but also showing up inside of human bodies (Elert). Pesticides, such as DDT were threatening the lives of birds, fish, and humans due to the deadly pesticide being washed up in the waterways and moving along the food chain (Haberman). They are found in the food we humans eat, the air we breathe, and in the water around us. The bald eagle, which is America’s national symbol, began feeling the results as it fed on fish that were poisoned by DDT (Haberman). The DDT caused eggshell thinning in the eggs of the bald eagle which led to a decline in the U.S. (Haberman). In 1962 Rachel Carson studied the dangers of DDT and this was eventually considered the turning point of pesticides, finding out that pesticides are causing tribble effects on wildlife, animals, and humans (Washburn). It was concluded that “Carson skillfully depicted pesticides as the cause of a range of negative effects on wildlife, experimental animals, and humans...” (Washburn). DDT is efficient, however, the side effects associated with it are very harmful. DDT was causing harm to living organisms such as humans, wildlife, and animals. The use of DDT started deteriorating in the 1970s when people were realizing the toxic outcomes and concentration in the food supply, thus leading to restrictions and prohibitions (Eskenazi et al. 2009). President Nixon took these concerns very seriously and created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970 (Haberman). In 1972, the EPA put a nationwide ban on DDT (Haberman). The EPA also worked on finding a tolerance level for pesticides which eventually led to a limit being set on how much is ok to be in the air, food, and water (Egendorf 43). The agencies that regulate pesticides are done on multiple levels, which are state, federal, and international. Action has been put in place as time has gone by to minimize risks as they see how chemicals impact the environment and the health of people.

Farmers may argue that there are still benefits to using pesticides on their crops. For example, a benefit many include gaining better quality from keeping the pests that feed on the foods away which eventually will lead to bigger portions of food. Pesticide use has been a big part of the agricultural process by reducing weeds, diseases, and insect pests to help develop greater yields (Aktar et al.). This shows, without pesticides many crops would be trashed and much time and work would be wasted. As a result of pesticide use, there has been economic and yield increases and it is said that without pesticide use there could be economic loses (Aktar et al.). Clearly, pesticides help maintain crops and without it, money would be wasted on the crops that die out and get attacked by pests. Another benefit is it is also said that natural chemicals that are naturally produced in crops are at a greater health risk than the risks associated with using pesticides (Hall). Vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli are more toxic than the actual pesticides found in these foods, causing cancer in rats and mice (Hall). This is something we do not pay attention to because we believe these foods are healthy and good for us. It is thought that humans are being health conscious when consuming vegetables when the truth is, they are not as good as they are said to be. However, most of the time the groceries in local markets are being used with pesticides which brings up the problems that are associated with the chemicals. This is true, however; the toxic side effects outweigh the benefits.

The benefits of pesticide use are specifically for farmers who do not realize that they can be damaging. The process of manufacturing is a risk to the farmers since they are often exposed to the chemicals (Aktar et al.). If the farmers were more aware of what they were dealing with, I'm sure they would put more effort into finding an alternate solution to keeping pests away. There are other natural ways to help maintain crops such as organic farming. It is a bit more expensive than pesticides which is why farmers refuse investing in it and consumers forbid purchasing the foods. Products using this method are full of minerals and vitamins leading to healthier foods (Chief). It also reduces soil erosion and pollution in groundwater (Chief). All farmers are ultimately worried about is keeping the crops alive and good looking/eatable in the cheapest way. They refuse to look into or care as much about the health risks associated with pesticides. There are overall not as many benefits when it comes to the health of the environment and society, health can be put at risk when consuming or being around any type of pesticide at any time. Overall, we are all affected by pesticides and may not even realize it. Although there are conflicting viewpoints on how serious the situation can be, the main goal is to have a thriving environment where humans, wildlife, and marine life can live in harmony and not have the burden of worrying about being affected by pesticides. The subject is important because it affects the entire world. We want to protect the environment in which we live, not only for us but for the generations yet to come.

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