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The Little Killer

The Little Killer

In today’s world people have become more observant of what they eat and where exactly it comes from. As a result, a growing concern in the food industry is pesticides. In recent years, information has surfaced concerning what pesticides are and how they affect the human body. In addition, pesticides are involved in the lives of all humans and their basic consumption. In short, almost any food that isn’t labeled organic, most likely contains some type of pesticides. With more and more knowledge on the presence of pesticides in food, the question of whether or not they are healthy to intake has become a popular discussion in many American households. Bodies simply aren’t meant to ingest large amounts of chemicals, so with the presence of pesticides in foods, exposure has become more rampant, which has raised widespread concern. Consequentially, ingesting and even coming in contact with pesticides has been shown to have negative effects on the human body. Although, supporters of pesticides try to hold up a fight against those who oppose them, the evidence of harm is overwhelming. Now conscious of the harm pesticides cause, there has been efforts to deter the detrimental effects of pesticides as well as remove them from produce altogether. The presence of pesticides in the food industry, has slowly become a large argument amongst people, making this topic very significant in not only the food industry, but human lives. With healthier food options becoming more abundant, supporters of pesticides will be put to silence by the facts that pesticides cause various forms of cancer.

The industrialization of the agricultural sector has increased the chemical burden on natural ecosystems. Pesticides are agrochemicals used in agricultural lands, public health programs, and urban green areas in order to protect plants and humans from various diseases. However, due to their known ability to cause a large number of negative health and environmental effects, their side effects have become a large environmental health risk factor. Some people aren’t familiar with pesticides but most people know about negatives of pesticides. Ever since pesticides have been available, society has been concerned about the risks associated with their use. A pesticide is a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest. Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Pesticides also include plant regulators, defoliants and desiccants. (Beyond Pesticides) Some pesticides are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Some pesticides are made with ammonia, arsenic, benzene, chlorine, dioxins, ethylene oxide, formaldehyde, and methanol. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) had been used to make pesticides before they were banned. Many of these pesticides have been associated with health and environmental issues, causing the agricultural use of certain pesticides to be abandoned.

Pesticides are common chemicals found in thousands of household and industrial products. Exposure to pesticides can be through contact with the skin, ingestion, or inhalation. The type of pesticide, the duration and route of exposure, and the individual health status (e.g., nutritional deficiencies and healthy/damaged skin) are determining overall health effect and outcome. Residue of pesticides can be found in a variety of everyday foods and beverages, including, cooked meals, water, wine, fruit juices, refreshments, and animal feeds. Different types of pesticides can affect your health in different ways. Some pesticides are carcinogens, known to cause cancer. Some can cause birth defects. Some affect the nervous system. Some pesticides are endocrine disruptors and affect the body’s hormones and endocrine system. Some may irritate the skin and eyes. The amount of a pesticide you are exposed to is as important as how toxic the pesticide is. (Tox Town) A low level exposure to a highly toxic pesticide may pose the same amount of danger as a high level of exposure to a less toxic pesticide. That is why if anyone tries to argue about the benefits of pesticides there is a lot evidence behind all the dangerous chemicals that could affect and kill humans. This current review aims at highlighting the urgent need for a new concept in agriculture, involving a drastic reduction in the use of chemical pesticides. Given the fact that the health effects have been extensively discussed in current literature, this paper focuses on the major chronic health effects and recent findings regarding health effects that have been associated with exposure to common classes of chemical pesticides, i.e., organochlorines, organophosphates, carbamates, and etc. The urgent need for a more sustainable and ecological approach has produced many innovative ideas, among them, agriculture reforms and food production implementing sustainable practice evolving to food sovereignty.

In using chemicals for any food production, negative health risks are expected and assumed. Simply, humans aren’t meant to digest and come in contact with any form of dangerous poison or chemicals. In all pesticides, different chemicals are used and synthesized to kill and help certain types of plants or food. Pesticides are poisons and, unfortunately can harm more than just the “pests” at which they are targeted. These substances and solutions put on crops and foods are toxic, and exposure to pesticides can not only cause a number of health effects, but is linked to a range of serious illnesses and diseases in humans, from respiratory problems to cancer. Authors such as Laura Y. Cabrera, Harriet Hall, Christos A. Damalas, and Llias G. Eleftherohorinos also speak out against the use of pesticides due to the awareness of their dangerous repercussions in the food industry. Cabrera continues this with the idea that “the brain is uniquely sensitive; however, there are two key windows of time when the brain is particularly vulnerable to environmental exposures: early in life when the brain is still developing and, later in life when the compensatory mechanisms of the body lose strength.”(Cabrera) Furthering this argument, showing how “pesticides constitute one of three major contaminants known to harm the structure and functioning of the developing brain and nervous system.” (Cabrera) Considering the evidence from prenatal and childhood pesticide exposure, it is possible that pesticides might be implicated in the disturbing rise in children’s neurodevelopmental disorders. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the prevalence of autism and developmental disabilities climbed nearly 123% during 2002–2010. (Cabrera) With the increasing amount of pesticide exposure no segment of the population is completely protected against exposure to these harmful chemicals and the potentially serious health factors. Many worldwide deaths and chronic diseases are due to pesticide poisoning, numbering at about 1 million per year (Damalas). In industrial settings, workers are at increased risk of exposure, with the constant handling of a variety of toxic chemicals including pesticides, raw materials, toxic solvents and inert carriers. With even more serious cases, as OC compounds has the potential to pollute virtually every life form on the earth, the air, the lakes and the oceans, the fishes that live in them and the birds that feed on the fishes. Llias G. Eleftherohorinos agreeing with Damalas, as she adds that “the production pollutes the atmosphere and causes 33% of greenhouse gases and there were 411 deaths in the US. The World Health Organization reports 220,000 people die every year worldwide because of pesticide poisoning.” With all the problems coming from pesticides inhalation, people and farmers have begun to realize that it is time to find another solution to harmful pests and diseases in order to avoid any more problems or deaths.

Like what Cesar Chavez once said, “We farm workers are closest to food production. We were the first to recognize the serious health hazards of agriculture pesticides to both consumers and ourselves.” Like I said earlier pesticide exposure has profound effects on human health, including increase risk of cancer, diabetes, genetic disorders, and neurotoxicity. Not all people know what these certain types of chemicals can do to your brain and body. Although it is established that neurotoxicity can result from high-level exposure to most types of pesticides, the neurotoxic effects of chronic exposure to moderate levels has been a matter of controversy. Pesticides such as organophosphate (OP) and organochlorine pesticides, both through interfering with the functioning of the brain and damaging the developing brain. In Europe, a panel of experts on neurodevelopmental disorders estimated with a strong probability that each year 13,000,000 IQ points are lost as a result of prenatal organophosphate exposure. (Cabrera) The statistics suggest children will more likely require special education programs, which can have a substantial economic impact. How could humans let this happen. Effects from chronic pesticide exposure may not become apparent until later in life. Studies support an association between increased risk of sporadic Parkinson’s disease. A recent meta-analysis suggested a positive association between pesticide exposure and Alzheimer’s disease. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) Brain health and mental well-being enable people to achieve their life goals and if simple’s small chemicals can ruin people’s lives. With these dangerous chemicals entering our bodies who would want to support pesticides. With all these negative effects coming from pesticides it is time for a change in society to help protect humanity from slowly dying off from the harmful chemicals.

Even though both sides of the argument have heavy and convincing support, either for or against pesticides, all authors agree on one thing being that there is an immediate need for reform and solutions to help avoid and extinguish certain pesticides from society. Current agricultural practices include the wide production and extensive use of chemicals known for their ability to cause negative health effects in humans and wildlife and to degrade the natural environment. Therefore, Pierce helps display an urgent strategic approach needed stating that we need, “A reduction in the use of agrochemicals and for the implementation of sustainable practices.” This making it possible for current agriculture to implement environmentally friendlier practices that pose fewer public health risks. Reforming agricultural practices aligned to fulfill these criteria is a step toward the sustainability of the agricultural sector in contrast to precision agriculture (Pierce, 129) Pierce proposes the reforms necessary to escalate our society and prevent the harm caused by many of these pesticides. There are technological systems in current use, such as geographical information systems, global positioning systems, and various sensors, that might be a step towards this solution. These technological systems are developed by precision agriculture which can be used to decrease risks for environmental pollution and water pollution and to enhance economic benefits stemming from the reduction in the use of chemical products. As the world moves towards a more consciences diet of consumption, the concern of pesticides has begun growing, all pointing towards the next move of reform.

Manufacturers have become more sophisticated in designing new molecules with a reasonable expectation that they will have herbicidal activity. Genetic Engineering Conceivably, crop varieties could be developed for allelopathic control of weeds.

No matter how pesticides are portrayed articles and books people’s opinions differed with supporting and not supporting pesticides. From authors like Ben Bennett, Jerry Cooper, and Hans Dobson who support pesticides while Laura Y. Cabrera, Harriet Hall, Christos A. Damalas, and Llias G. Eleftherohorinos speak out against pesticides. Throughout human society people have found that pesticides bring benefits and others deceive it and only look at the negatives. Overall both sides can agree on it that we need to find better and safer solutions.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.