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Pesticides are poisonous compounds or mixtures of substances used in crops and public health systems to protect plants from rodents, weeds, and diseases, as well as to protect humans from vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever, schistosomiasis, and malaria. Pesticides include fungicides, insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides, and plant growth, regulators. These chemicals are also used to maintain and enhance non-agricultural areas including playing fields and public urban green spaces. Pesticides are also used in boat bottoms, construction supplies, and pet shampoos to deter or remove the existence of undesirable organisms. Pesticides are made to kill pests, but their toxic effects have the capacity of negatively affecting harmless, useful organisms and may even be harmful to the health of humans. This paper will discuss the categories of pesticides, their effects on human health and the various ways of prevention and mitigation of the spread and impact of pesticides on human health.
Categories of Pesticides
The classes of pesticides include organochlorines (OCs), organophosphates (OPs), phthalates, pyrethrins, and pyrethroids. Organochlorines include the known pesticide called dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) which it’s uncontrolled used resulted in many environmental and human health issues (Sanford, 2015). There are very few countries that still use DDT while in the United States it was banned. Organochlorines are usually persistent in the environment and are believed to build up in human fat; they have also been associated with health effects like endocrine disorders, effects on lipid metabolism, embryonic development, and hepatic and hematological alterations. The organophosphates are composed of a variety of organic compounds that contain phosphorus the most common one being glysophate which also includes other known pesticides like dimethoate, parathion, and malathion which are known to have endocrine disrupting potential. The organophosphates have been known to have effects on the function of cholinesterase enzymes, decrease the secretion of insulin, and disrupt the normal cellular metabolism of carbohydrates, fat, and proteins (Sanford, 2015). They also have genotoxic effects and effects on mitochondrial function that cause cellular oxidative stress and issue the endocrine and nervous systems. Pyrethrins are compounds that occur naturally that have insecticidal properties which can be found in extracts of pyrethrum from a particular flower called chrysanthemum. They are often utilized in household insecticides and products to control insects on livestock and pets. Pyrethroids are manufactured chemicals that have a structure that is very similar to pyrethrins, but their toxicity to insects and mammals is much higher and also lasts longer in the environment. Phthalates are chemicals that are utilized in the manufacture and use of pesticides and interact with the pesticides to produce adverse effects on the reproductive systems. They have been found in studies that involve rats to cause additive side effects when they are combined with other phthalates (Sanford, 2015).
Effects of Pesticides on Human Health
The exposure to pesticides can occur through ingestion, inhalation, or even contact with the skin. The determinants of the possible health outcomes of pesticide exposure will include the type of pesticide, the duration and route of the exposure, and the health status of an individual (Matthews, 2015). In the body of human and animals’ pesticides may be bioaccumulated in body fat, excreted, stored, or metabolized. The various adverse health effects that are associated with pesticides include carcinogenic, endocrine effects, dermatological, respiratory, gastrointestinal, reproductive, and neurological. It is important that the individuals who are in regular contact with pesticides comprehend their relative toxicity, potential health effects, and preventative measures that will reduce the exposure to the pesticides. The hazard or risk of using pesticides will depend on the toxicity of the pesticide and the duration of exposure. The problem with the effects of pesticides is that they may take a while to appear after exposure making it difficult to link the symptoms to the pesticides. A lot of the times their symptoms are mistaken with those of the flu resulting in them not being properly treated. Soon after an individual is exposed to pesticides, it causes skin irritation or rashes. However, it can have a broad range of health effects such as headaches, vomiting, blurred vision, abdominal pain, suppress of the immune system which can result in blood and liver disease, asthma, and nerve damage. Other significant health effects include problems with heart rate, central nervous system deficits, cancer, reproductive difficulties, and congenital disabilities. According to the World Health Organization, pesticide exposure causes 20,000 deaths worldwide yearly (Matthews, 2015).
The exposure of pesticides can also cause a range of neurological health effects like the loss of memory, coordination, reduced visual ability, reduced speed of response to stimuli, reduced motor skills, and altered or uncontrollable mood and general behavior. Pesticide is also a common way of committing suicide as many cases of poisoning and death are as a result of people coming into contact with pesticide wastes and containers that are poorly disposed of. Children are more susceptible to the risks from exposure to pesticides because of their small size and because of their small size they eat, drink, and breathe more. Children may even be exposed to pesticides even before they are born, and they get affected they might exhibit behavioral problems and growth issues, lower cognitive scores, fewer nerve cells, and lower birth weight. They might also have less resistance to the toxic effects of pesticides and will be at a greater risk of contracting the Parkinson’s disease even when the levels of pesticides are low.
The easiest way of preventing the effects of exposure to pesticides is through education that brings awareness of the adverse health effects it has on humans to the farmers who get into contact with it on a daily basis. If many of the farmers had knowledge on the risks of these pesticides they would be more careful in the way they utilize it as well as use more protective gear when spraying. Another way of preventing the risks is by using the program by Integrated Pesticide Management which emphasizes the use of nonchemical and cultural pest control strategies like the removal of diseased plants, crop rotation which has the ability to disrupt the life cycle of pests and biological control like the use of insect predators (Matthews, 2015).
All the pesticides have the potential of being harmful to humans if they are misused. The key to minimizing the adverse health effects of pesticides is to limit one's exposure to them by wearing PPE and using low toxicity pesticide. It also important that when purchasing pesticides one looks at the levels of toxicity so as not to get one that is very high. It is also very crucial to dispose of pesticides containers correctly as this will also reduce the exposure to it or children getting into contact with it. Because the symptoms of pesticide exposure take too long before they show making it hard for a doctor to point it out it is therefore important that extra care is always taken.
Matthews, G. (2015). Pesticides: Health, Safety and the Environment. John Wiley & Sons.
Sanford, C. (2015). Pesticides and Human Health: PEI health and pesticide use. Prince Edward Island Health and Wellness.
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