Pesticides have a specific purpose in society. Pesticides are intended to:
- kill organisms that cause disease and threaten public health
- control insects, fungus, and weeds that damage crops
- control pests that damage homes and structures vital to public safety
Because people use pesticides to kill, prevent, repel, or in some way adversely affect some living organism (the pest), pesticides by their nature are toxic to some degree. Even the least-toxic products, and those that are natural or organic, can cause health problems if someone is exposed to enough of it.
People come into contact with pesticides in many ways, including:
- When pesticides are used in and around our homes and gardens
- When pesticides are used on our pets
- When we work with pesticides
- When pesticides are used in our communities or in our environment
- When pesticides are used on the food we eat
The risk of health problems depends not only on how toxic the ingredients are (Pesticide Ingredients), but also on the amount of exposure to the product. In addition, certain people like children, pregnant women and sick or aging populations may be more sensitive to the effects of pesticides than others.
There is growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can adversely affect people, especially during vulnerable periods of fetal development and childhood when exposures can have long lasting effects. Because the toxic effects of pesticides are worrisome, not well understood, or in some cases completely unstudied, shoppers are wise to minimize exposure to pesticides whenever possible.
Danges of Pesticides include
1. Acute Effects
Acute health problems may occur in workers that handle pesticides, such as abdominal pain, dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, as well as skin and eye problems. In China, an estimated half million people are poisoned by pesticides each year, 500 of whom die. Pyrethrins, insecticides commonly used in common bug killers, can cause a potentially deadly condition if breathed in.
2. Long-Term Effects
Many studies have examined the effects of pesticide exposure on the risk of cancer. Associations have been found with: leukamia, lymphoma, brain, kidney, breast, prostate, pancreas, liver, lung, and skin cancers. This increased risk occurs with both residential and occupational exposures. Increased rates of cancer have been found among farm workers who apply these chemicals. A mother's occupational exposure to pesticides during pregnancy is associated with an increases in her child's risk of leukemia, Wilms' tumor, and brain cancer.
Evidence links pesticide exposure to worsened neurological outcomes. The risk of developing Parkinson's disease is 70% greater in those exposed to even low levels of pesticides. People with Parkinson's were 61% more likely to report direct pesticide application than were healthy relatives. Both insecticides and herbicides significantly increased the risk of Parkinson's disease. There are also concerns that long-term exposures may increase the risk of dementia.
The United States Environmental Protection United States Environmental Protection Agency finished a 10-year review of the organophosphate pesticides following the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, but did little to account for developmental neurotoxic effects, drawing strong criticism from within the agency and from outside researchers. Comparable studies have not been done with newer pesticides that are replacing organophosphates.
2.3 Reproductive Effect
Strong evidence links pesticide exposure to birth defects, fetal death and altered fetal growth. In the United States, increase in birth defects is associated with conceiving in the same period of the year when agrochemicals are in elevated concentrations in surface water. Agent Orange, a 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, has been associated with bad health and genetic effects in Malaya and Vietnam. It was also found that offspring that were at some point exposed to pesticides had a low birth weight and had developmental defects
A number of pesticides including dibromochlorophane and 2,4-D has been associated with impaired fertility in males. Pesticide exposure resulted in reduced fertility in males, genetic alterations in sperm, a reduced number of sperm, damage to germinal epithelium and altered hormone function
Some studies have found increased risks of dermatitis in those exposed.
Additionally, studies have indicated that pesticide exposure is associated with long-term health problems such as respiratory problems, including asthma,memory disorders and depression. Summaries of peer-reviewed research have examined the link between pesticide exposure and neurologic outcomes and cancer, perhaps the two most significant things resulting in organophosphate-exposed workers.
According to researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), licensed pesticide applicators who used chlorinated pesticides on more than 100 days in their lifetime were at greater risk of diabetes. One study found that associations between specific pesticides and incident diabetes ranged from a 20 percent to a 200 percent increase in risk. New cases of diabetes were reported by 3.4 percent of those in the lowest pesticide use category compared with 4.6 percent of those in the highest category. Risks were greater when users of specific pesticides were compared with applicators who never applied that chemical.
What's the Difference?
An EWG simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets shows that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead. Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 14 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day. Less dramatic comparisons will produce less dramatic reductions, but without doubt using the Guide provides people with a way to make choices that lower pesticide exposure in the diet.
Will Washing and Peeling Help?
Nearly all of the data used to create these lists already considers how people typically wash and prepare produce (for example, apples are washed before testing, bananas are peeled). While washing and rinsing fresh produce may reduce levels of some pesticides, it does not eliminate them. Peeling also reduces exposures, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the peel. The best option is to eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
Alternative solution is to purchase a fruits & vegetables washing machine that removes 99.9% pesticides without removing any nutrients.
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