Today, the use of pesticides has increased dramatically because of the growing population and the demands this population. The high increase in population means more food must be produced and spreading of diseases is more likely. Like other organisms, humans compete with other species for food and shelter and struggle to protect ourselves and predators. In order, for a stable healthy population to survive the use of pesticides must be applied to crops for greater efficiency and insecticides used to kill insects which transmit diseases.
These pesticides which are usually synthetic chemicals made up of different chemical compounds are intended to eliminate pests and provide a safer environment for humans. However, the use of pesticides in the United States has caused a profound negative effects on our environment and the living organisms. Basically, the pesticides affect three different areas of a society including human health, the environment, and the future effects.
Currently, humans are exposed to pesticides and their residue everyday and many negative results are caused by this exposure.
First, most of the fruits and vegetables that are imported to the US contain large traces of pesticide residue that are consumed without the buyer even knowing about it. In the US around one-third of imported shipments are detected with hazardous pesticide residue, yet the shipments still reach our supermarkets because of halfhearted enforcement efforts and delays within the government (Honey 5). Also, individuals are exposed to and handle many household insecticides that contain harmful chemicals such as Rotenoids and Carbamates. The exposure of the residue along with household insecticides has caused a disturbance in the medical field.
Many doctors and researchers are relating cancer, respiratory, and reproduction problems to toxic pesticides. In one case, a 112 farm workers in Florida were exposed to the insecticide mevinphos and the results were ranging from blurred vision to convulsions (Honey 4). Also, a study found an increased risk of childhood leukemia among families where a parent worked with pesticides or high concentrations of pesticides where used in their home garden. In Minnesota, researchers discovered a high birth defect rate in areas of the state where certain herbicides and fungicides were used heavily. These findings have lead disputes between the medical field, legislature, and the farmers concerning the future of pesticides.
In addition, the use of pesticides has caused substantial damage to our surrounding environment. When a farmer applies a pesticide to his field it is sprayed carelessly throughout the air and is carried by the wind to nearby areas. These nearby areas often contain many native and non-target species which are eliminated along with the pests. It is estimated that up to 90 percent of pesticides used never reach their intended targets. Many birds, fish, and helpful insects are killed by the pesticides that are carried in the water or wind. Also, as more humans are sickened by pesticides, more insects, weeds, and rodents are genetically changing and are building up immunities to specific pesticides. According to Rudd, "More than 120 of the some 5000 species of insects and mite pests on earth are now to some degree less susceptible to control chemicals than they were fifteen years ago" (141). Consequently, the farmers must apply more pesticides to get the same results as ten years ago. All of these pesticides accumulate in the soil and nearby water including lakes and streams where they can persist for years in the ecosystem. Then, these accumulations enter the food chain and gradually are found in human tissue.
Finally, the use of pesticides must be controlled for the future generation in order to prevent a hazardous environment. Many of the chemicals found in pesticides such as arsenic and mercury are very dangerous to human health. Scientists are developing new chemicals that are not as harmful to humans, but the high price of these chemicals stops farmers from using them. Another solution is to use biological alternatives that do not harm humans or the environment. Many natural predators can be introduced without side effects and they are much cheaper and more efficient than pesticides. But, farmers believe that pesticides eliminate all of the pests unlike predators which eliminate only a selected group. Next, the government has began to work with farmers to limit the use and notify the public of the harmful chemicals used (Honey 6). However, farmers in the Midwest offer to give support and money to those politicians who fight for the use of pesticides. In addition, the government tends to push aside these environmental problems which could effect the lives of thousands of people. Meanwhile, the public must take caution and protect ourselves from the exposure. The public should scrub all produce with soap and water before eating it, buy local produce if possible, and use minimum pesticides in your home. The pesticides and their application methods need to be altered to prevent future problems.
In conclusion, pesticides are very helpful in producing the best crops possible, but they are used too frequently and carelessly which has caused problems in the environment. Caroline McIsaac, a project coordinator for MassPIRG at Framingham State College in Massachusetts, stated Chemicals pesticides are virtually the only toxic substances released intentionally into the environment to kill living things, but the same toxic properties that make pesticides effective at killing pests may also threaten the health of exposed humans, pets, wildlife, and entire ecosystems. (Guarino 1). The public must be aware of pesticides and try to prevent the use of harmful chemicals in our food and environment.