Pesticides And Human Health

    Posted before Dec-31-2007

It may appear to be incredible to many, but the fact is that pesticides or insect killers are among the most extensively used chemicals in the world today and they are also among the most hazardous compounds to the human well being. What is more surprising is the fact that presently more than 2.5 million tons of pesticides valued over US $30 billion are being used in cultivation alone all over the world. In Canada alone, more than 7000 dangerous chemicals are used as registered pesticides. In fact, there is an absence of adequate laws to restrict the use of such chemicals as well as inspect the unfavorable influences that have made the use of pesticides rampant in Canada, where the authorities solely depend on the versions provided by the pesticide manufacturers regarding their products. This has only worsened the situation vis-à-vis pesticide use.

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Going by the characterization of pesticides, they are chemical substances that are made use of to eliminate animals, insects, plant and fungal bugs in cultivation, at home as well as in institutions. Well, the question is whether the pesticides really kill those they are intended to. The answer is yes, but horrifying. These pesticides not only do their duty, but more. What is really horrifying is a report by the World Health Organization that makes an approximation that over 200,000 people is killed owing to the toxicity of these dangerous chemical world-wide every year. In fact, the casualty figures do not tell the real picture about the vast impact of the poisoning caused by these poisonous chemicals. Pesticides lead to over three million poisoning cases annually. Exposure to these pesticides or hazardous chemicals leads to several health problems that range from asthma attacks, skin rashes as well as chronic disorders like emphysema and cancer. Studies on animals have established the lethal aspect of the pesticides as well as their role in leading to cancerous growth. These studies conducted for regulatory actions against the pesticides have somewhat undermined the threat from these dangerous chemicals to humans.

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Consequently, there is an urgent need to initiate necessary action to counter the health hazards posed by the use of such pesticides. Also there is a need to draw the focus of all individuals, families, communities and nations on this crucial issue and raise the demand for lesser exposure of the pesticides to humans and animals with a view to their well being. There is also a need to force the authorities to give more emphasis on the health of the humans and treat the issue on a priority basis. It may be mentioned here that multiple approaches were adopted to compel the tobacco industry to come out in a confrontation regarding the harmful health effects caused by its products. Pressure from the individuals as well as political opposition had forced the authorities to ban the use of tobacco in many places and restrict its usage elsewhere.

In fact, the movement against tobacco use was successful in making the tobacco industry liable for adverse effects on human health through its products. Presently, the people as well as the political forces cannot remain vague on this crucial issue and a similar will and desire is once again required to compel the authorities to restrict the usage as well as exposure of these dangerous chemicals to human health. If we continue to delay action on the pretext of debating on the cause and effect of the pesticides, it would only tantamount to defending or protecting the industries manufacturing the lethal pesticides. And all these will be done at the cost of losing more human lives. In fact, what needs to be done immediately is to appraise the adverse health effects caused by the pesticides and if they are found to be dangerous beyond a certain level, restrictions should be imposed on their use as well as exposure to human health.

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By the way, it is the children and the adult in our society who face the greatest health risk from the pesticides. In fact, they also need the maximum advocacy and protection from such dangerous chemicals passed as pesticides and used for cultivation. This often makes the foodstuff they consume contaminated and poisonous. As they are the most susceptible among the rest of us, in the absence of adequate immune system in their body, the pesticides tend to damage their tissues first and make them fall ill. What is appalling is that most of these pesticides are intended to disturb the nerve communication system in organisms. In addition, researches have also demonstrated that many pesticides also disturb the hormones. These poisonous chemicals have the potential to build up inside the organs and tissues of the children and remain there for their entire life being responsible for various illnesses from time to time. While these chemicals accumulate in the body during childhood, their adverse effects can be experienced much later in life. In fact, the latent or dormant stage of these chemicals in the body can be decades as they take sufficient time from exposure to development of cancer or other degenerating diseases in the body.

Researchers have discovered that this unique characteristic of the pesticides are responsible for most of the lethal and degenerative diseases among the adults. Hence, the researchers have attributed ailments like Parkinson's disease that is an effect of smashed up nerves, ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease (again owing to damaged nerves) and even prostate cancer (caused owing to hormone disorder) to exposure to pesticides at different periods in a person's life. It is startling to note that studies conducted from autopsies on elderly people in Texas revealed that 100 per cent of the fat samples found in their body contained pesticides.

In fact, the scientists were amazed to find the presence of DDE, a by-product of DDT that has been banned by the United States since long, but is still used in many parts of the country as well as the world to restrain malaria. Among other dangerous chemicals found in the fat of the deceased Texans were heptachlor, dieldrin and others. What is important to remember is that the biological consequences are likely to continue for several days, sometimes even months and years after coming in contact with these deadly chemicals. And repeated exposures to these pesticides lead the chemicals to build up in the tissues and later develop into lethal and degenerative diseases. Considering all these aspects, the scientists have come to the conclusion that the elderly population in our society are more prone to diseases caused by the pesticides.

On the other hand, children too are very prone to develop diseases caused by these deadly pesticides and if there is any negligence towards their protection from such poisonous chemicals, it needs to be rectified immediately. And it must be kept in mind that food consumed by the people in Canada is highly contaminated with pesticides. This is primarily owing to the fact that the authorities concerned have approved around 250 to 300 different pesticides for use during cultivation and handling of different food products. Although the government has set some standards for the use of single chemicals to be used in agriculture and handling crops, even this underrates the threat to human health from the pesticides. For instance, on an average, the peach grown in Canada contains deposits of at least 40 different kinds of pesticides that possess the properties of the deadly chemicals used to manufacture them.

Significantly, while evaluating the risks associated with the exposure to such pesticides, researchers often do not take the collective effect or consequences caused by these poisonous chemicals. Hence, most of the reports are ambiguous and mislead the regulatory authorities who set the limits for the use of different pesticides. Again, it is difficult to assess the risk to the children by conducting studies on adults as the biological as well as the immune system of the kids are greatly different. In fact, the children's biological system can be described as 'immature' or not fully developed to counter the actions of the chemicals. Considering this as well as the fact that we mostly come in contact with pesticides through our food, everyone needs to know that the uppermost on our food sequence is breast milk which encloses numerous chemicals and all in superior intensity.

It is important to note that the growth of the fetus is also impinged on owing to exposure to pesticides. In addition, the limits set by the regulatory bodies for the use of different pesticides too are impractical as well as dangerous. For instance, the currently sanctioned intensity of aldicarb on watermelons is so unrealistic that a 10 kg child consuming the fruit may intake sufficient amount of pesticides that could give rise to intense toxicity, revealing symptoms like vomiting, convulsions and even collapse of the respiratory system. Moreover, a child's nature or behavior, like frequently putting the hand in mouth and the time they spend playing on the ground, put them at a greater danger of being exposed to the poisonous chemicals contained in the pesticides. According to a report on poisoning through insecticides, approximately 56 per cent of such cases take place in children below the age of six.

Thus, collecting all the above mentioned facts, one may establish that the children not only have many different ways of coming in contact with the poisonous chemicals contained in pesticides, but also more prone to developing deadly and degenerative diseases following the exposure to the chemicals. Moreover, the potential period between exposure to the chemicals and the beginning of the diseases is much more in children. Hence, it may be safely assessed that children are more prone to different diseases caused by the chemicals in the pesticides. It may also be concluded that those at the helm of affairs of the health department are aware of these issues and have been initiating steps to safeguard our children from such poisonous attacks. Unfortunately, this is not the real scenario. This is evident from the fact that the history of exposure to dangerous chemicals seldom comes up during a patient's consultation with the physicians. Even if it does, it is merely a passing mention.

Moreover, it has been noted that most medical practitioners are not adequately trained to identify or diagnose the effects of pesticides on our well being. Normally, whenever a person suffers from vomiting or rashes, doctors pass them off as effects of viral attacks. Seldom have they tried to look deeper into the problem. As a result, the cause of most cases of vomiting and rashes stay unobserved.

A call to action

It is, therefore, pertinent to give a call to restrict the use of pesticide with a view to protect the humans' well being from the adverse consequences of the dangerous chemicals contained in them. A call in this regard may appear to be something as below.

As individuals
People need to develop their awareness concerning their homes as well as gardening options. They need to obtain the services of organic or natural lawn care firm and choose organically grown foods. This way they may provide support to the alternative cultivators, get in touch with the local government officials to kick off a prohibition on the superficial or cosmetic use of pesticides.
As communities and governments
The government should introduce a law banning the superficial use of pesticides, while the communities create health awareness among the public by organizing campaigns that would highlight the evil effects of pesticide use. In addition, the government should introduce incentives to encourage as well as support the organic food cultivators, make it mandatory for all pesticide manufacturers to disclose all the ingredients in their products and enact a legislation regarding 'reverse onus' whereby the producers will be responsible for the safety of the people using their pesticides.

In addition, there needs to be a legislation to demand evidence of the safety of the products before they are launched in the market. There also should be a law banning the manufacture and use of all synthetic pesticides, barring in cases that are vital and critical. At the same time, the communities and governments should together work towards achieving a total ban on all pesticides that are detrimental to human health. To make this a success, both need to back the cultivators and other crop growers economically so that they change from using pesticides to growing plants organically. In fact, the money that would be saved from spending on health care or treating people affected by exposure to pesticides may be used to support these programs.


Before we conclude, it is essential to reiterate that the health burden on humans caused by the random use of dangerous chemicals in the form of pesticides is unfathomable. These include ailments associated to cancer, severe toxicity, unceasing diseases that lead to the degeneration of organs and even nervous disorders. Many consider children to be 'small adults', but this is essentially not desirable. In fact, the biological systems of the children are exceptionally immature. Their liver detoxification system as well as the blood-brain defensive barricade best manifests this. In fact, the monetary charges to the taxpayer owing to ailments associated to these hazardous pesticides are tremendous. On the contrary, manufacturers of these pesticides functioning sans any law that forces them to take the responsibility for the causalities continue to reap profitable harvests. While there is no need to repeat history or bring back the days of protest against the tobacco industry, the history is needed to remind people about the yardstick for collective knowledge and understanding. It is expected that as individuals, communities and nations, we will be able to make intelligent selection regarding the reduction of the adverse influence of pesticides on our well being.


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