I used to think that if they sprayed a certain pesticide on food, then it must be gentle enough to eat. A pesticide, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is "any substance used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are considered to be pests." They can be used to control insects, bacteria, mold and mildew, mice, and plants. Many studies have shown that the chemicals used to control pests may be having quite and effect on us as well.
Pesticides are not only used on farms. In certain areas in the West, it is common practice to have your home sprayed with pesticides monthly to control lizards and scorpions. Flea collars are another common use of pesticides in the home. Even disinfectants that proudly boat to kill bacteria are pesticides. These and many other products are marketed without really explaining the risk to our family when we use them.
The NIEHS also reports that a major study on farm families is indicating negative consequences to the exposure to pesticides. Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, tremors, and other neurological related symptoms. The National Cancer Institute says that although farmers have an overall lower death rate than the general population (probably due to increased activity and lower smoking rates), their risk for certain types of cancer, such as non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Leukemia, brain, and more. Although it is unknown what causes each type of cancer, pesticides are highly suspect for many of the cases. One commonly used farm pesticide, imazethapyr, was previously classified by the EPA as a non-probable carcinogen, but this agricultural study has shown that there is a 137% increase in bladder cancer among farmers with the highest exposure. This shows that it may not be so clear as to which chemicals are safe.
Children and fetuses are at the highest risk for problems caused by pesticides. There is a window of susceptibility which means that fetuses exposed to pesticides and other toxins are at risk for developing other problems later in life such as lower IQ, disease, and other developmental problems. Another study by the NIEHS of preschool children showed that children eating primarily organic produce have a 9 times lower level of pesticides in their body. So, that is one simple way that parents can greatly reduce the exposure for their children.
The results of recent studies show that pesticides are a big deal. They are not just a convenient way to get rid of pests without any risk to humans. It seems that it is quite the opposite. Maybe it's time to think of all of the ways your family is in contact with pesticides and think of ways to make a change. You don't have to change everything right now, but you should change something right now. One step at a time.
Don't forget to sign your name to the growing list of Americans who are demanding safer chemicals. On the right is a place to show support for the Safer Chemicals Healthy Family.
Our Stolen Future: Eating Organic Reduces Pesticide Exposures
Catherine McCord: "Snobby Kids Eat Organic"
National Cancer Institute: Agricultural Health Study
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: Child Development and Environmental Toxins
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: Pesticides