Risks and Consequences of Pesticides
Pesticide use has grown sharply over the last few decades. The 2006 and 2007 estimated sales of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals topped 12 billion dollars in the United States and nearly 40 billion worldwide. They play an important role in maintaining the world food supply free of bugs and disease, and their use is expected to grow several-fold more in the upcoming decade. Yet there is growing evidence that pesticide use is linked to negative health consequences for humans, bees, and the environment.
By law, all pesticides must be registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the active ingredients must be listed on the labels.
All pesticides are, by definition, dangerous but the degree of danger depends on the exposure (how much) and the toxicity (how poisonous). People who work with pesticides on a daily basis have higher exposure levels and higher risks of seeing health consequences. Gaseous pesticides are also more likely to cause harm because the particles spread out over a broader area and may linger in the air for hours or days. People who are breathing in those particles have to take certain safety precautions such as masks or they will become sick. A much more humane option to get rid of carpenter bees is by using a carpenter bee trap.
Pesticides are not always limited to the farm or lawn where they are directly applied. The wind often picks up particles and blows them into neighboring areas where they are absorbed into the soil and transported further by other organisms. They are then absorbed into the roots and hinder growth, or even kill the other plants. Pesticides are also found in groundwater, rivers, streams, and lakes. They are carried there by runoff during rainstorms and can trigger die-offs of fish, water plants, and small organisms.
There are several known health risks associated with pesticide exposure.
Some are known to cause cancer above a certain dosage. They can cause headaches, blurred vision, vomiting and suppress the immune system. Other people experience asthma, depression, blood, and liver diseases. However, many times the link between the pesticide and the symptoms are hard to prove because there is a delay following the actual exposure. Often they are mistaken for other causes, such as the flu.
Certain populations are more at risk following exposure than others. Those living near agricultural areas are more likely to be exposed to pesticides because the exposure levels from airborne or ground water pesticides are higher than for those who eat food grown on that farm. Children and the elderly are more vulnerable to the toxicity because their bodies are less able to absorb the chemicals. Children frequently play in the ground, water, and put things into their mouths so the chances of exposure are higher than for adults. People who have pre-existing health concerns, such as weakened immune systems or asthma may also be at greater risk.
However, even more chilling is the effect they are having upon bees. Neonicotinoids are a newly developed class of pesticides which directly attack the central nervous system of insects. They were designed to prevent insects from harming crops, but are now widely blamed for the widespread deaths of bees that were exposed to it in the pollen while they were pollinating the crops. Many pesticides sold in stores for home use have lethal doses of these chemicals, which can linger in the ground and plants for months or even years.
There is good news, however. There are many non-pesticide solutions homeowners can try if they are having trouble with insects around the home. Some bees, such as carpenter bees, will build their nests on the outside of your home and need to be removed. If you spot the eraser-sized, circular holes, follow them until you think you know the exact location of the nest. Then, install a trap somewhere nearby. The trap’s exterior needs to be a light wood color, such as pine, and the inside is very smooth so when the bee flies in, it cannot escape again.
Even as pesticide use continues to grow, awareness of the health risks is growing as well. People, insects, and the environment are all at risk from overexposure and high toxicity. As a result, many people are choosing safer, more natural solutions to pest control.