A pesticide is an agent used to repel any microorganism, plant, insect, or animal that is harmful in some way to humans. These chemical combinations are not only common in environmental applications, such as to control weeds and destructive insects in our yards and crop fields, but are also widely used in households. Some examples of everyday pesticide products would be mosquito repellant, cockroach and ant sprays/traps, kitchen and bathroom disinfectants, rat poison, flea and tick collars and powders for pets, mold and mildew cleaners, and some swimming pool treatments.
Because these substances are in effect poisonous to living organisms, some pesticides have been shown to have dangerous and long-lasting consequences for people who come into contact with them. Pesticides, including fungicides and herbicides, are widely used in agriculture and lawn care, in our homes and schools, and on the job.
General Health Hazards
Pesticides are commonly used throughout the United States. Unfortunately, the very chemicals that prevent harmful pests from causing damage to our property have been proven detrimental to animal and human health by numerous and continuing scientific studies.
Some of the more common and minor side effects in humans of pesticide usage are eye and skin irritations such as burning, itching, and rash. Pesticide exposure has also been shown to cause damage to the nervous and immune systems, sometimes even leading to the development of certain cancers and death. The reproductive system, too, is especially susceptible to harmful influence from exposure to pesticides, resulting in a higher rate of birth abnormalities and miscarriage, decreased birth weight, and a host of fertility problems for both men and women. Pesticides such as DDT have also been found to be destructive to our natural environment and nearly decimated certain wildlife habitats such as that of the brown pelicans in Texas and Florida. These types of pesticides can seep into the groundwater supply and be consumed by humans as well. In spite of the mass of scientific evidence exposing the dangers of pesticides, they are still utilized daily throughout the country.
Risks To Children
Just like adults, children are exposed to commonly-used pesticides every day in their homes and schools. There are several factors, however, that lead to an increased risk of harmful exposure in children compared to adults. Since a child’s body is still growing, they may be susceptible to pesticides which prevent the absorption of nutrients needed for their natural, healthy development. Children also eat more food and drink more water in relation to their body weight than adults, thereby increasing their chances of consuming greater quantities of pesticides used to treat our consumables. Because children spend more time playing in yards or on floors, they also experience greater exposure to lawn pesticides as well as disinfectant cleaners. Some toxins have a detrimental effect at critical stages of a child’s biological system development and can lead to permanent impairment.
For these reasons, the Environmental Protection Agency keeps close watch on the amount of pesticides used in the production of the foods most commonly eaten by children such as fruits and vegetables, sugar, eggs, and meat. The EPA aims to maintain exposure to pesticides from food at a safe level. In addition, the EPA has established guidelines for the safe storage of harmful substances in the home (locked cabinets at a distance greater than four feet off the ground). Under the pesticide law also regulated by the EPA, household products that have a warning on the label are required to have child-resistant packaging. All of these precautions are no substitute for proper attention to safety by the adults in a household to prevent accidental poisoning from pesticide ingestion or exposure.
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