What are the negative effects of Pesticides?
Owing to economically viable, but environmentally inappropriate monocultures, the use of pesticides has become essential in order to obtain an efficient harvest. The feast of food provided by a monoculture, may attract pests from far and wide, resulting in carnage to the crop unless steps are taken to combat this.
Withholding periods (the time between last spray and harvest) are thoroughly researched before a pesticide is registered. If this period is observed, the pesticide should have broken down completely and the produce should be residue-free.
In practice, however, abuses take place. What would you do if pests attacked just when your produce was ready to harvest?
So what can exposure to pesticides do to human health?
According to the World Health Organisation, the primary risk is to those who actually apply pesticides to crops. Effective personal protection equipment including gloves, masks, eye protection, gum boots and spray suits should be used when applying certain chemicals.
Unfortunately, while pesticides are available in many countries, some farmers either disregard safety measures or economise by not using any form of personal protective gear. In some countries, these items are simply not available.
Sadly, even the secure storage of agricultural chemicals is at issue, Approximately one third of suicides worldwide make use of agricultural chemicals as a means of ending their lives.
For consumers, the main concern is regular, low-level exposure to chemicals, many of which may cause cancer, respiratory or neural diseases. This effect is not measurable, since such diseases can be triggered for many reasons, none of which are determinable.
In areas where aerial spraying is still applied, widespread effects have been reported. These range from early puberty in children and hormonal imbalances in boys, to simple respiratory tract problems such as sinusitis and allergies.
The scale of long-term effects of pesticide on human health is largely unknown, since many people fail to associate their illnesses with pesticide exposure, and the illnesses themselves are ambiguous enough for healthcare professionals to avoid the possible association.
What about our environment?
Pesticides remain for a time in the air, water and soil. DDT, banned in most countries, has a half-life of up to 30 years. This not only results in carcinogenic toxins remaining in the environment for long periods after application, it also contributes to resistance of insects to the chemical as those resistant to it survive and breed.
Overuse of herbicides may result in contamination of ground water with attendant health problems, in particular, an increased incidence of cancer. Certain herbicides are banned in the European union as a result of water pollution, and there are current lawsuits in the United States related to this problem.
Broad-spectrum pesticides also destroy the natural enemies of many pests resulting in even more pesticide use with attendant risks.
Many pesticides affect bees, and bees are the pollinators that ensure that our crops bear fruit.
What can I do about this?
Grow your own food or eat certified, residue free produce. If you have a little space, growing your own produce may prove easier and more rewarding than you suspect. Sharing surplus with friends and neighbours is always a good thing to do!
If you can't afford expensive, organic foods, at least wash the produce thoroughly to remove any chemicals that may adhere to the outside.
If you are a pesticide user: Choose the least toxic alternative (toxicity is specified on the bottle), make use of the relevant safety precautions as indicated on the packaging. Spray only the affected pants and their near neighbours. Observe re-entry and withholding prior to harvest periods.
Be aware. Smell fresh produce and avoid anything with a sulphurous or chemical smell. This is more common than you might think!
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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )