Contributed by Kathrina Lewis
Pesticides are used to get rid of pests. They are the only toxic substances released intentionally into our environment to kill living things.
The environmental concerns arise when pesticides attack non-target species.
We all as inhabitants of this world combine up to form a single ecosystem where everything is balanced; anything outnumbered or less numbered does create some disturbance to our environment and in turn, affects us.
And it is usually we who are intervening in the cycle of nature by using toxic things like fertilizers and pesticides.
Each pesticide or pesticide class comes with a specific set of environmental concerns. The undesirable effects of pesticides have led many to get banned, while regulations have limited the use of others.
Pesticides aren’t limited to agricultural fields. They are also used in homes, schools, parks, buildings, roads, and forests. This is why our air, food, water, and everything are loaded with pesticides.
The harmful contents of a pesticide include Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). These compounds resist degradation and thus remain in the environment for years. Some volatile POPs have the ability to travel great distances through the atmosphere to become deposited in remote regions. POPs can affect non-target organisms in the environment and increase the risk to humans by disrupting the endocrine, reproductive, and immune systems.
Pesticides and the Environment
An insecticide application may kill both pest and beneficial populations. Loss of such species can also lead to secondary pest outbreaks, increasing problems from species that were not originally a problem due to a loss of their predators or parasites. Thus, the use of an improper pesticide may cause an adverse effects and lead to increased pest population.
The harm done to beneficial insect species such as soil microorganisms and worms, which naturally limit pest populations and maintain soil health, can in turn damage agricultural land as well. The absence of beneficial organisms may lead to the weakening of plant root systems and immune systems. It can, therefore, reduce concentrations of such essential plant nutrients in the soil as nitrogen and phosphorous. These insecticides are also responsible for the reduction of the symbiotic chemical signaling results in reduced nitrogen fixation and thus reduced crop yields.
Application of pesticides to crops that are in bloom can kill honeybees, which act as pollinators, thus inhibiting pollination.
Fish and other aquatic biota may be harmed by pesticide-infected water. Applying herbicides to bodies of water can kill plants on which fish depend for their habitat. When the dead plants decay and they consume the water’s oxygen, suffocating the fish.
Repeated exposure to sublethal doses of some pesticides can cause physiological and behavioral changes that can reduce fish populations by abandonment of nests and broods, decreased immunity to disease and decreased predator avoidance.
Pesticides can accumulate in bodies of water and kill zooplankton, the main source of food for young fish. Pesticides can also kill off the insects on which some fish feed on, which causes the fish to travel farther, exposing them to risk from their predators. The faster a given pesticide breaks down in the environment, the better it is for the aquatic life. Insecticides are more lethal to aquatic life than herbicides and fungicides.
Pesticides And Animals
Bald eagles are common examples of nontarget organisms impacted by pesticide use. Rachel Carson‘s book Silent Spring dealt with damage to bird species due to pesticide bioaccumulation. And it says that there is still evidence to the harms pesticides still cause to the birds.
Pesticides may kill some earthworms, which can, in turn, reduce populations of the birds and mammals that feed on them.
Some pesticides come in granular form; these granules can be mistaken for grains of food. A few granules of a pesticide can kill a small bird.
Pesticide mixtures appear to have a cumulative toxic effect on frogs. Ponds containing multiple pesticides may infect tadpoles and they may take longer to metamorphose and are smaller when they do. This decreases their ability to catch prey or avoid predators. Resulting in behavioral and growth abnormalities.
Pesticides and Human Health
The effects of pesticides on human health depend on the toxicity of the chemical and the length and magnitude of exposure.
Human health hazards are ranging from short-term impacts such as headaches and nausea to chronic impacts like cancer and reproductive harm. Other dangers include blood and nerve disorders, skin and eye irritation and damage, headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and systemic poisoning, coma or death.
Children have not developed their immune systems, nervous systems, or detoxifying mechanisms completely. Therefore they are less capable of fighting back the toxic effects of pesticides. Children may be more exposed due to their close proximity to the ground and tend to put unfamiliar objects in their mouth. Toxic residue in food may contribute to a child’s exposure. The chemicals can bioaccumulate in their bodies over time.
Pesticides can cause many types of cancer in humans. Some of the most prevalent forms include leukemia, brain, bone, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver and testicular cancers.
There is also mounting evidence that exposure to pesticides disrupts the complex regulation of hormones and embryonic development. This disturbance in the hormonal cycle can produce infertility and developmental defects in offspring. It also causes incomplete sexual development, impaired brain development, and many other issues.
Tips On Minimizing Environmental Risk When Using Pesticides
Ground spraying can help outdoor air can remain free from pesticide transfusion. It produces less pesticide drift than aerial spraying does. Farmers can safeguard their crop by having empty land or evergreen trees to serve as windbreaks and absorb the pesticides around their farming land. This will prevent pesticides from drifting into other areas.
At home, edibles and other daily items should be kept away from pesticide sprays. The house should get properly cleaned afterward. Be sure to take measures for proper ventilation in order to reduce the concentration of pesticides in the indoor air.
Protection of children should also be kept in mind. Use of pesticides should be prohibited in places where your children live and play. Non-toxic pest management programs are suggested for such places.
Many times pest infestation is causing a lot of damage and the easiest way you can think of throwing them away from your life is by using pesticides. Then make sure you are using species-specific pesticides and you have read about the “Environmental Hazards” they might have.
Most importantly, hire professional pest control services which are aware of all these environmental hazards and take appropriate measures to avoid causing any harm to the environment. Make a list of your concerns and questions and ask them about it. They can control pests better than you, and more safely.
Kathrina Lewis is a blogger who writes on a variety of topics including health & fitness, gardening and a lot more. In her leisure time, she enjoys playing hockey. She is a guest contributor for top brands including Dash Two.
Source: B&C Pest Control
Photo Credit: Found at Physics.org. Licensed for commercial reuse according to Google images.