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The Effects of Pesticides on Human Health

Author: Stewart Hare

The terms "Pesticides" refers to many chemicals including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides and are designed to kill certain types of pest. These include insects, plants, fungi, moulds and rodents. Pesticides are used in modern farming on fruit and vegetables to increase yields and are thought to increase produce quality. However, pesticides are toxic chemicals designed to kill agricultural pests but can also cause problems with human health if exposed to in large amounts. Aldicarb used on potatoes, Carbendazim used on cereals, oilseed rape, fruit and vegetables, Chlormequat used on wheat, rye, oats, flowers, pears, almonds and tomatoes, Chlorothalonil used to kill fungal disease in crops, Chlorpyrifos used on apples, Pirimiphos-methyl used in cereal based infant food, Trifluralin used to kill weeds in fruit, vegetables and arable crops and Vinclozolin used peas, vines, oilseed rape and other fruit and vegetables to kill plant disease are all harmful to human health and the environment. I feel that because I eat a lot of these types of food that I have a great potential to be affected by the toxic chemicals used in these pesticides. Many organ systems such as the nervous and the brain can be subtly or permanently damaged in childhood. The endocrine system is more sensitive to pesticides and it is now known that many pesticides are "endocrine disrupters" which can affect the hormone balance within the body.

Pesticides are not only used in farming but we also use them within our homes and gardens. We use them on our lawns to kill weeds such as clover and dandelions and on our flowerbeds to kill insect pests such as greenfly. In our homes we use them in "fly killer sprays" to kill house flies and in insecticides to kill wood boring insects such as woodworm. Childrens immune systems are more susceptible to these pesticides as they spend more time playing in the garden and in the home. Children are also susceptible to catching head lice which is treated with shampoo with pesticides within them.

To protect children from pesticides it is best to feed them organically or ecologically grown food especially those foods that are produced with the aid of high amounts of pesticides. Wash and peel all fruits and vegetables especially if waxed, wash in mild dish detergent or diluted vinegar. Cut out the stork end of fruit as this funnel shape of the fruit is where pesticides are concentrated most. Buy locally grown food as this has not been sprayed for shipment or export. Pesticide residues are also found in meat and diary foods so it is best to buy organic. Make sure that childrens play areas are free from pesticides. If children have head lice than use non-chemical shampoo, shampooing with tea-tree oil can help with head lice. Avoid using pesticides to deal with pets fleas use herbal shampoos and vacuum pets bedding. Use all-natural insect repellent as an alternative to pesticide based repellent. Avoid using pressure treated wood within the home as all pressure treated wood contains pesticides. Encourage schools to use natural native plants within their playing fields and yards to reduce the use of pesticides. Native plants are hardier to pests than introduced plants species. Make sure children wash their hands after playing in school play areas which tend to use pesticides.

A lot of people are exposed to pesticides within their working environment. Farmers, pesticide applicators and workers in pesticides manufactures are the occupations that we tend to think of first but forestry employees, horticultural workers, textile workers, airline crews, military personnel, park workers, food service workers, golf course employees, veterinarians and employees of electrical utilities all come in contact with pesticides within their working environment. Exposure to pesticides within a working environment can cause cancer, brain tumours, stillbirths, birth defects, spontaneous abortions, and neurological and psychiatric effects. Workers should wear proper protective clothing when exposed to pesticides.

Urban lawns and gardens, public parks, golf courses, playing fields and road verges are sprayed with pesticides more than agricultural land. Indoors, pesticides are used to spray cockroaches, fleas, and other pests within homes, schools, hospitals, office buildings, supermarkets, stores, arenas and food storage buildings increasing exposure especially if the building is poorly ventilated.

To reduce the use of pesticides within cities, indoors and in outside spaces it is best to avoid using pesticides on lawns, there are many books on organic gardening, avoid outside spaces that have been recently sprayed, whilst playing golf keep balls and tees away from the mouth and wash hands and shoes after playing the game, if pets have a flea problem use herbal shampoos and collars plus avoidance methods such as flea combs, to combat insects within the home, keep it clean, avoid leaving food out, fill in cracks and gaps where they tend to like to live and research natural ways of insect control.

To conclude, to reduce the risk from pesticides eat organically and ecologically grown food, wash and peel vegetables and fruit, grow your own food, avoid fatty foods or trim fat from meat as persistent pesticides are stored in fatty tissue, cook vegetables rather than eat them raw all the time, cook meat and chicken thoroughly, garden in a non-chemical way without pesticides, avoid using chemical and pesticide based head lice shampoos, encourage schools to use non-pesticide methods within their environment, keep away from areas that have been freshly sprayed with pesticides and if your job involves exposure to pesticides make sure you are wearing proper protective clothing.

Stewart Hare C.H.Ed Dip NutTh

Advice for a healthier natural life