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The Dangers of Pesticides

You’ve heard the saying that one apple a day keeps the doctor away? Well, that may not be entirely true, especially in the last 20 years. When a single apple is sprayed with 30 different pesticides, in 10 years you may need many doctors to figure out the best treatment for your allergies, low immune system or red, itchy eyes. It was easy 20 years ago when almost every food was organic and naturally grown, so you didn’t have to worry about the dangers of pesticides. Nowadays, you will have to go through every label in the grocery store until you find the one product that is produced without the use of chemicals. Pesticides are health hazards and that’s not a marketing trick. The residue they leave behind is not easily washable and it can contribute to the cause of many diseases and developmental difficulties. The use of chemicals in agriculture all over the world is increasing every year, so we need to pass the awareness of how they can harm one’s health.

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Where Do Pesticides Come From?

You can’t tell your kids not to play outside and you certainly shouldn’t avoid healthy, nutritious fruits and vegetables in their diet. Their young nature forces them to explore their environment orally, whether they are playing in your back yard, the nearby park or at school. The dermal contact they have with floor surfaces every day can’t be easily monitored or prevented, especially when you think that your home is clean. But day in and day out, whether you want it or not, you bring all sorts of chemicals with you in your home. Sometimes we bring them on our shoes, other times they enter our homes through the air and our pets. And school yards see more than 800 different people every day. Some of them arrive from the city, others pass by agricultural areas, while a fair amount of people come straight from a farm or their chemicals sprayed lawns. Even if you live in an area where you don’t have to touch the actual soil, you are still in contact with pesticides every day. Maybe your family has a strict “Organic food only” policy, but even so, chemicals can be found in the water, air and every tangible surface you come in contact with.

If the organic farm from where you buy your crops was upraised on a former pesticide using company, the soil they used may still contain chemical residues. The soil needs at least 10 years to be recycled, depending on how many years the farmers abused the farm’s soil, the amount of pesticides they used, their toxicity and concentration. The amount of pesticides used in today’s farming practices is huge and highly overlooked. Basically, there are broad-spectrum and narrow-spectrum pesticides. The first one is meant to kill many different pests, while the second ones are used for killing specific organisms. Farmers usually use both of these types on most of their crops, to prevent any vexation that may attack. And systematic pesticides are a little different and maybe most dangerous. When this type of chemical is applied, it doesn’t stay on the surface of the crops, but instead it penetrates the plant through the plant’s water absorption system. Once it’s a part of the plant, it stays there, effectively killing vermin, as well as bees and butterflies.

Pesticides, Kids and Babies

For many reasons, children and especially infants are at greater risk of many different pesticides. As adults we are naturally protected by our immune, enzymatic and metabolic systems, but babies, children and infants are still developing theirs. Their gastrointestinal system is still in development and pesticides may cause damage, dysfunctions and different intestinal maladies. Our livers and kidneys are used to torture and toxins, but their young organs can’t remove pesticides just as easily. The amount of food kids eat in proportion to their bodies and their weight is also greater, which forces their young, developing bodies to process greater amounts of chemicals than adults do. The pesticide toxicants they inhale and digest are blocking the nutrient absorption, which affects their development directly. The poisonous chemicals can easily cross the placenta in the mother’s womb, which will interrupt the developmental process of the fetus, causing birth defects and premature births. Expecting and nursing mothers should particularly avoid contact with pesticides, because once absorbed, they can be passed through the mother’s milk.

The dangers of pesticides on the health of your offspring depends on the types of the pesticides used. Carbamates and organophosphates for example, directly affect the nervous system, while other chemicals may harm the endocrine system, cause rashes, eye infection and cancer. For now, the only tests we have publicized about the effects of using pesticides on the health are done on animals, mostly rats. The substantial toxicological evidence we have from these tests is pointing to the fact that even low level contact with the pesticide called organophosphate have huge effects on the growth of animals and their neurodevelopment. The tests also exposed that this type of pesticide causes impairment on locomotion and maze performance. The possible outcomes for these effects includes: inhibition of brain acetylhydrolase, reduced brain DNA synthesis, decreased brain weight in offspring and down regulation of the muscarinic receptors. The researchers also revealed that early exposure to this chemical may cause respiratory impairments in children, due to anatomic nervous system dysregulation.

The Dangers of Pesticides on Adults

If you want to live a healthy life you must make healthy choices. Our fully grown bodies are usually strong and resistant to many dangers. One pesticide sprayed apple won’t cause instant death or severe disease. But in the long haul, many eaten apples may cause ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, colon cancer, mental disorders and etc. First of all, let’s define toxicity. Toxicity is the ability of any chemical to pose a potential danger or harm to the health. This danger may come from pills, drugs, alcohol and any synthetically manufactured product, like pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States says that all chemicals must undergo a rigorous scientific valuation procedure to ensure that no harm will occur if the product is used according to the label instructions. But that’s just the agency’s statement, and you can never know to which extent the farmers will use the product to protect their harvest, and income. There is currently no law that obliges farmers to report the type of pesticide they use, the amount of chemicals they apply and the time of application. Most pesticides are very safe if you are slightly exposed to them, but the longer you are in contact - the greater the chances are that the chemical will harm your health. Many people have strong immune systems, functional livers and kidneys, but even if your physical condition is perfect, your health may still be in danger.

The danger of pesticides always equals their toxicity and your exposure to them. Its effects are the same thing as drinking a regular pill like aspirin. If you take two, your headache will be gone, but if you drink the whole bottle, you will need to call for emergency. Regardless of what the label says, you need to be very careful. Many studies have been made, especially in the 21st century to raise people’s awareness on the dangers of pesticides. Despite the efforts being made to protect the individual from overexposure to chemicals, or to mitigate the pesticide risks, chronic if not epidemic illnesses have been linked to the use of many toxic chemicals. As we said, if the mother has been exposed to pesticides, children can be born with birth defects, impaired cognitive abilities and even autism. Overexposure to chemicals can cause severe dysfunctions in the reproductive system, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases and cancers. Although allergies caused by pesticides have not been reported and are not yet thoroughly studied, potent chemicals may cause mild, moderate and severe poisoning. Some people are more sensitive than others, and the chemicals in pesticides may distress different individuals differently.

If you have been exposed to any type of chemicals you might experience irritation in the eyes, skin, and nose, coughs, severe salivation, constrictions in the chest and throat. Cramps, blurred vision, diarrhea, nausea, mental confusion, weakness, uncoordination or severe headaches, have also been reported, especially by people who has been in direct contact with chemicals, like farmers. You have to visit the nearest doctor’s office if any of these symptoms appear without other reasonable medical explanation. In cases of severe poisoning, some of the symptoms may be: inability to breathe, unusual secretion of phlegm and mucous in the airways, contracted or pinpoint pupils, chemical burns on the skin, increased heart rate and breathing, loss of reflexes, uncontrollable muscular twitching or unconsciousness. If you have the reasons to believe you have been overexposed to pesticides you need to find someone who can take you to the hospital and avoid being alone. Some of these symptoms may appear right away, others might take a few hours to occur. But the most dangerous effects may not be detected for years, causing cancer, immune impairments and brain dysfunctions.

The medical science is still not sure about the long term effects of hazardous chemicals on the human health. Regardless of how strong our body is our kidneys and livers can’t filter all chemicals. Many compounds stay in the colon for years, where they may cause cancer and poison the entire body. The short term effects, whether acute or mild, can be easily detected, prevented and treated, but repetitive exposure to pesticides can neither be monitored nor prevented. It takes decades to bring one study about the long term effects of pesticides on the human health to a definite conclusion. Most epidemiological studies have tried to link and explain the relationship between these environmental hazards and human health, but for now, the use of pesticides is in the gray area.

The Dangers of Pesticides on the Environment

When you read a label, if there is any word that ends with “cide”, then you should probably be careful how you use the product, because it was made to kill something. Fungus, insects, bacteria and other pests can all be exterminated with pesticides and big farming companies are very driven to use them to protect their income at any cost. In 1963, when the international Codex Alimentarius Commission organization was established, their objective was to ensure the customer health is protected, while the manufacturer was allowed to use fair practices. Today, seven of the deadliest compounds known to us are allowed to be used as pest control, in the production of food. You may be able to wash your fruits and vegetables to make sure all chemical residues are removed, but the danger of pesticides is imposing on your health from many different sides, not just through the food you eat. We are not only concerned about the bees, butterflies and other natural pollinators which may be extinct in another 50 years if we continue polluting their and our environment. 25 percent of the world’s bee colonies perished in 2007, so 50 years are maybe even too long. Most chemical compounds found in pesticides can be carried by the wind. Even if you live far away from the farm life, you can still feel the long term poisonous effects. Once applied, many chemicals migrate into the soil and groundwater, which later drifts to the runoff waters, contaminating our public water supplies, the open seas and all sea life. Many farming companies use organophosphates pesticides. This is the most commonly used synthetic pesticide for killing pests today, but in the World War II, it was used as a nerve agent to kill captives in the gas chambers. The components of the pesticides like organochlorines are not easy to break down naturally and they will stay in the soil and groundwater for years after being applied. They are banned substances in Europe because many studies proved their dangerous cancerogenic complexion, but American farmers still use them. Another popular persistent organic pollutant is the inorganic pesticide. Its elements, like arsenic and mercury are lethal and will stay in the ecosystem long after the chemical's initial usage.

Protection Against the Dangers of Pesticides

If you believe you have already been contaminated with some type of dangerous chemical it will be best to contact your doctor. Organochlorine pesticides are detectible through blood, fat, urine, semen and breast milk tests, which can show if the exposure is mild, moderate or extreme. The exact amount of chemical to which you have been exposed cannot be shown on the test however, and the doctor can’t help you with calculations about your future health risks. The best you can do to avoid these chemicals is to grow your own products. If you are not much of a gardener or you don’t have enough space to grow your own crops, do your best to shop locally and seasonally. Ask your grocery store official to convey organically grown food and file complaints in the Complaint Box in your supermarket, if they don’t have anything organic on the shelves. If you don’t want to rebel and you are fine with buying non organic foods, at least you can do is rinse them properly. Soak your veggies and fruits in water and vinegar mixture the night before you store them and rinse them again with water before you use them. Instead of vinegar, you can also use baking soda. This will help you remove pesticide residues, as well as bacteria and germs. Avoid leaving the skin on the fruits and vegetables, especially apples and cucumbers. Inform yourself about which fruits and vegetables need more chemical spraying to survive the growing process and make your best efforts to buy them organic. Peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, lettuce, kale, cherries and strawberries are at the top of the list of most sprayed fruits and veggies, while cabbage, eggplants, onions, pineapple, avocados and asparagus are most pest resistant crops, and therefore, not sprayed.

When you want to use chemicals to protect your own crops or lawn, make sure you follow the label instructions. Use the proper ratio of water and chemicals, and you can even make it a little lighter. Avoid using the pesticides when the weather is windy, as to prevent spreading. If your lawn or garden is discernible to your neighbors or passersby, put up a visible sign that will signal everyone that you have been spraying recently, to avoid accidental contamination. If you don’t use the entire content make sure you get rid of the box or bag. Use all precautionary methods to avoid contamination yourself, like gloves, boots, special suits, masks and etc. and clean all your equipment after you are finished. There are many organic and homemade fertilizers, pesticides and mixtures you can use, that will be safe for your family and your environment. Old school farmers use garlic and onion sprays, Chile pepper and diatomaceous earth mix, mineral oils and salt or baking soda sprays. If you intend to live healthy, there is always a healthier solution. After thousands of years spent farming we have developed and discovered many ways to naturally protect our health and environment.

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