Blog post by SEL Intern and UNH Student Samantha Lent
Pesticides are substances used to repel or kill plants and animals that are pests to the crop. There are different types of pesticides: chemical pesticides and biopesticides. Chemical pesticides include organophosphates and carbamates. Biopesticides are plant-incorporated, biochemical, or microbial pesticides. All of these are highly used in agriculture, households, and even on ourselves with bug spray. The health effects of pesticides are still being researched, but their use has been in correlation with cancer, diabetes, and neurological effects.
Some benefits of pesticides are that they help control disease organisms. Pesticides can protect our homes and health by controlling insects like termites and in extreme cases of rodent populations. Also, they protect our drinking water and medical instruments. Additionally, we as consumers gain from pesticide usage by lower costs and a wider selection of food and clothing. This is especially helpful for the various parts of the world that fight for hunger, but it should be noted that food production is also negatively affected by pesticide use. Food is often lacking in nutrients, flavor, and other qualities after prolonged pesticide use.
Chemical pesticides are the pesticides that are most harmful to our health. A short amount of time with a large amount of these chemicals can result in poisoning. This increases the risk for farmers who frequently touch and breathe these pesticides in. This is where the research is unclear, but some studies link them to cancer, diabetes, and neurological defects. Chronic and low-dose exposure to pesticides increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, exposure to pesticides has been correlated with increased infertility in women and developmental issues in children.
When possible, it is best to reduce exposure to pesticides, especially in groups that are more susceptible, such as pregnant women and children. At local farmers’ markets and farm stands, one-on-one conversation between the consumer and farmer is the best way to learn about how food was produced. The farmer is available to answer any questions on how the food was produced, and if pesticides were used. Purchasing organic foods is another way to make sure there are no unnecessary pesticides if the farmer is not around to answer questions.
Furthermore, pesticide use is being analyzed and regulated by organizations like the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization. Before the EPA allows pesticides to be used on crops, it sets a maximum tolerance for each treated food and if more than that limit is being used, then the government will take action. Make sure when you buy food you are aware of how that food was produced. Purchasing food that is free of harmful pesticides is the safest for you, your family, and your farmer!