Are pesticides harmful to humans? - Seeker's Thoughts

Recent Posts

Seeker's Thoughts

A blog for the curious and the creative.

Are pesticides harmful to humans?

We are increasing our population, and we need food to feed millions. In this case, to increase the production of food, the use for pesticides is a normal practice.

Pic Credit: Laura Arias


However, the question appears – what if these pesticides harm us?

There is a simple answer- Yes.

Pesticides can harm for short term as well as long term.


What does pesticides mean?


Pesticides is a substance used for destroying – insects or other harmful organisms to cultivate plants.

Therefore, Pesticides can be

1-    Insecticides – that means the bug killers

2-    Herbicides – the weed killers

3-    Fungicides – the Fungus Killer

4-    Rodenticides – The Rodent Killers

5-    Antimicrobial

Pesticides can be available in the market in Spray cans or Crop Dusters. These can be used in household cleaners, soaps, or swimming pools.


The use of Pesticides can be various.  

Insecticides are generally the most acutely (immediately) toxic. Many are designed to attack an insect's brain and nervous system, which can mean they have neurotoxic effects in humans as well. Herbicides are more widely used (Roundup and atrazine are the two most used pesticides in the world) and present chronic risks. 


What do pesticides kill?


Pesticides can kill an insect, an animal, rodent, bacteria, virus, fungus or unwanted plants.


Pesticides are extensively used all over the world to increase food production and control vector-borne diseases and in recent years their use has increased drastically due to over consumption of food and it’s increasing constantly with increasing population


What does pesticides do?


Pesticides control pests, disease carrier, rodent etc in agriculture.

Pesticides contribute to prevent public health problems also like- Lyme Disease, Rabies etc.

Indoor household pests’ cockroaches can contribute to allergies and asthma for control these pets – pesticides must be used.

What does pesticides mean in food?


Large amounts of these chemicals are released into the environment. Though each pesticide is meant to kill certain pests, however a very large percentage of pesticides mix into the air, water, sediments and even end up in our food.

Impacts of Pesticides on Human Health

Ongoing, low-level exposures to pesticides can increase the risk of diseases or disorders such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease or infertility and other reproductive harms. Fungicides are also used in large amounts; some are more benign, some are not.

 Pesticides and Cancer


There are Fifty-six pesticides have been classified as carcinogenic ( that causes cancer )to laboratory animals by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Pesticides have been linked with human health hazards, from short-term impacts such as headaches and nausea to chronic impacts like cancer, reproductive harm.

Pesticides on Soil


The use of these pesticides decreases the organic quality of the soil.

If there is no chemicals in the soil there would be a higher soil quality, and this would allow higher water retention, which is important for plants to grow.

Pesticides are also sometimes broken down into chemical classes and modes of action. For example, fumigants are pesticides applied as gases to "sterilize" soil, and systemic work their way through a plant's tissue after being taken up at the root. 

Major chemical classes include carbamates, organochlorines, organophosphates (mostly developed 70 or more years ago for chemical warfare) and triazines. Newer classes include pyrethroids and neonicotinoids, synthesized to mimic nature's pest protection.


History of pesticides


Pesticides are not recent inventions! Many ancient civilizations used pesticides to protect their crops from insects and pests. Ancient Sumerians used elemental sulfur to protect their crops from insects. Whereas medieval farmers experimented with chemicals using arsenic, lead to common crops.


The Chinese used arsenic and mercury compounds to control body lice and other pests. While the Greeks and Romans used oil, ash, sulfur, and other materials to protect themselves, their livestock, and their crops from various pests.


Meanwhile, in the nineteenth century, researchers focused more on natural techniques involving compounds made with the roots of tropical vegetables and chrysanthemums. In 1939, Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT) was discovered, which has become extremely effective and rapidly used as the insecticide in the world. However, twenty years later, due to biological effects and human safety, DDT has been banned in almost 86 countries.


Global impact of using pesticides


According to the World Health Organization, Pesticides are among the leading causes of death by self-poisoning, in low- and middle-income countries.


The most at-risk population are directly exposed to pesticides. This includes agricultural workers who apply pesticides, and other people in the immediate area during and right after pesticides are spread.


The general population – who are not in the area where pesticides are used – is exposed to significantly lower levels of pesticide residues through food and water.

The United Nations Population Division estimates that, by the year 2050, there will be 9.7 billion people on Earth – around 30% more people than in 2017. Nearly all of this population growth will occur in developing countries.


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that, in developing countries, 80% of the necessary increases in food production keep pace with population growth are projected to come from increases in yields and the number of times per year crops can be grown on the same land.

Only 20% of new food production is expected to come from the expansion of farming land.


As they are intrinsically toxic and deliberately spread in the environment, the production, distribution, and use of pesticides require strict regulation and control. Regular monitoring of residues in food and the environment is also required.


How can we minimize the harmful impact of pesticides?


Nobody should be exposed to unsafe amounts of pesticides.

People spreading pesticides on crops, in homes, or in gardens should be adequately protected. People not directly involved in the spread of pesticides should stay away from the area during and just after a spread.


Food that is sold or donated (such as food aid) should comply with pesticide regulations, in particular with maximum residue limits. People who grow their own food should, when using pesticides, follow instructions for use and protect themselves by wearing gloves and face masks as necessary.


Consumers can further limit their intake of pesticide residues by peeling or washing fruit and vegetables, which also reduces other foodborne hazards, such as harmful bacteria.


Pesticides can prevent large crop losses and will, therefore, continue to play a role in agriculture. However, the effects on humans and the environment of exposure to pesticides are a continuing concern.


The use of pesticides to produce food, both to feed local populations and for export, should comply with good agricultural practices regardless of the economic status of a country. Farmers should limit the amount of pesticide used to the minimum necessary to protect their crops.


It is also possible, under certain circumstances, to produce food without the use of pesticides.

Alternatives of Pesticides

Are these alternatives of pesticides?

Yes, it is possible.

By using- cultural, biological, and mechanical methods.


How can cultural practices reduce the use of pesticides?

By Planting a variety of species, and rotating crop regularly the use of pesticides can be minimised.

Some of the plants discourage pests, therefore, the gardening techniques can also help.

Companion planting is also helpful – as marigold keeps away insects.

Manage soil fertility, watering, drainage to provide optimal growing conditions. Healthy plants are naturally more resistant to pests.


How does biological control help in reducing the use of pesticides?

There are many insects that can eat the parasitic pests. For example Ladybug controls aphids. Nematodes control unwanted pests.

Plant native flora.


How does mechanical control help in reducing the use of Pesticides?

Ged rid of debris, pots, boards and other objects as some of the pests like to hide in that.

Crushed eggshells and oyster shells create a barrier for slugs and snails.

Weed growth can be reduced by layers of newspapers or cardboard layers.

Use of Cloth Crop covers also reduces the use of pesticides.

Don’t water your garden with and overhead sprinkler in the evening.

Home made fungicides

Baking Soda Option

  • Combine 1 tablespoon each of baking soda and horticultural oil.
  • Dilute in 4 litres of water.
  • Spray on leaves.

Milk Option for Mildew

  • Mix a 50/50 solution of milk and water.
  • Thoroughly spray plants at first sign of mildew.
  • Repeat every 3 to 4 days.
  • You can also use this weekly as a preventative measure.






No comments:

Post a Comment