It might seem that pesticides aren’t that
harmful. After all, once the spray dries and there isn’t a smell anymore
it’s ok, right? Nope. If the chemicals applied didn’t work after drying
they wouldn’t work to kill the weed or pest. You’d be calling the
exterminator back the next day. Although you don’t smell anything, the
chemicals and solvents used in pesticides can be detected long after
application1. Most of the chemicals are called “inert”
ingredients and not listed on the label. Do not be confused by the terms
insecticides or herbicides, fungicides and antimicrobials. These are
Pesticides can be very bad for your health and affect your quality of
your life. Besides causing cancer, they can make your life miserable.
Pesticides have been reported as a leading cause of sinusitis,
bronchitis, migraines, allergies, and immune system disorders such as
chronic fatigue, even at low levels.
Using pesticides might seem worth the risk except for the fact that they
do not solve the pest problem. Pesticides kill pests but you have to
continuing apply them, otherwise pests come back. If pesticides worked
we would see a decrease in the amount of pesticides sold each year.
Instead the amount sold seems to be increasing. Perhaps this is in part
because pesticides kill beneficial bugs too, making it more difficult to
control any pest problem you might have.
Children and pets are extremely
vulnerable to pesticides, more so than adults. Children have more skin
surface for their size than adults and have less mature immune and
enzyme systems to detoxify chemicals.7 The following study
was published in 1998 in the Environmental Health Perspectives, a
publication of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Scientists recruited children ages 4-5 from the Sonora Yaqui Valley in
Mexico. The children lived in towns in an agricultural region where
pesticides are applied 45 times per crop cycle. Most of their exposure
came from pesticide drift and dust. A control group of children was
studied from a nearby region in the foothills where families avoid the
use of pesticides and use fly swatters instead of household sprays to
kill bugs8. This significance of this study is that other
than differences in exposure to pesticides, the two groups are similar
genetically, culturally and physically. They have similar diets, eating
the same local foods.
There were developmental differences in children exposed to pesticides.
The children in the valley where pesticides are used are not as
neurologically developed as the children in the foothills. The valley
children averaged 1.6 body parts per drawing they were asked to make of
a person compared to the foothill children’s 4.4 body parts. It was
noticed that the normal children moved the paper about for better
positioning in drawing a specific body part compared their drawing to an
actual person to make necessary corrections. Valley children would look
at an individual but continue to draw meaningless circles. This supports
evidence from other studies that pesticides impair motor skill
development and may cause lowered IQ’s similar to lead exposure. A scary
thought considering the brain may not be able to regenerate itself and
neurological damage can be permanent.9
Another observation made in the study was that valley children
seemed less creative in their play. Group play was more prevalent in the
foothills where pesticides are not used with pretend parties for dolls
and street games. In the valley where pesticides are used, children
tended to roam the streets with minimal group interaction. Some valley
children were observed hitting their siblings when they passed by and
becoming easily upset or angry with minor corrective comments from
parents. These aggressive behaviors were not noticed in the foothills8.
“-cide” means “kill”. There is a strong correlation between pesticides
and breast cancer.
Children in families that use pesticides are 6.5 times more likely to
get childhood leukemia10. Pesticides are stored in fat
tissues. Build up can effect people years after exposure.
Pesticide exposure has been associated with the following health
- Immune system depressor - people get
sick more often
- Asthma and allergies
- Neurological disorders & motor
- Learning disabilities and decrease
in IQ similar to lead exposure
- Birth defects
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cancers including breast cancer11
A follow-up study was recently done with
the girls from the Yaqui Valley. Researchers found changes in the breast
development in girls from the agricultural regions where pesticides are
used12. The girls had decreases in the amount of mammary
tissue necessary for breast feeding.
Using pesticides in the house or in the yard creates the potential for
cumulative buildup over time. Pesticides can cause birth defects. It is
strongly recommended that pregnant women and young children avoid