Pesticides provide many substantial benefits for farmers and consumers by controlling pests and preventing disease, as well as increasing crop yield and keeping costs down; however, these potent chemicals have also put our health in great danger. And you don’t have to work on a farm or eat a fruit- and vegetable-only diet to absorb the toxic substances in pesticides.
Here are 8 possible side effects of pesticides:
- Cancer: For decades, there has been a great deal of concern and debate surrounding pesticides and their carcinogenicity. There is a large body of evidence that claim pesticides cause cancer in multiple organ systems, but other factors like age, family history of cancer, diet and lifestyle should also be considered. In an effort to monitor the health effects and better understand the dangers of pesticides, the Environmental Protection Agency reviews pesticides for potential carcinogenicity based on its potency and the potential for human exposure.
- Endocrine Complications: Another potential side effect of pesticides are endocrine complications, specifically blocked male hormones that may affect human reproduction. Agriculture pesticides have been linked to blocking testosterone and other androgens, which are essential for healthy male reproductive systems. Most of these endocrine disruptors are fungicides that are applied to fruit and vegetable crops and can remain on foods.
- Infertility and Sterility: Pesticides have been linked to male and female infertility and sterility. Exposure to pesticides and solvents may be the cause of low sperm levels and increased levels of infertility in men working on farms and those who are exposed to pesticides on a regular basis. Sperm counts have been declining worldwide and may be the result of eating foods laced with pesticide residue and the increased use of household pesticide sprays.
- Brain Damage: Pesticides have also been linked to brain damage in those who use these chemicals on a regular basis. Gardeners and farmers are the most at risk for developing long-term brain damage and suffering from brain problems such as mild cognitive dysfunction (MCD), which affects your ability to speak smoothly and identify words, colors or numbers. Pesticides may also be to blame for brain damage and developmental problems in children.
- Birth Defects: Birth defects from pesticide exposure is another growing concern for expecting mothers, adults and children. The link between pesticides and birth defects has been tied to use of household sprays that kill garden insects, ants, mosquitoes and fleas. These potent chemicals are used to attack the nervous system of insects and kill them, but may pose an even greater risk to your unborn baby’s health and increase the risk for oral clefts, neural tube defects, heart defects and limb defects. Exposure to pesticides and insecticides should be avoided at all costs during pregnancy.
- Respiratory Disorders: Another concerning side effect of exposure to or ingestion of pesticides are respiratory disorders, including wheezing, chronic bronchitis, asthma and farmer’s lung. Regular exposure to pesticides increases your risk for developing respiratory problems, but can be lessened with proper respiratory protection and daily preventative measures.
- Organ Failure: Pesticides may be to blame for an increase in organ failures around the world. For example, there have been an alarming number of deaths related to either chronic kidney disease or intestinal nephritis in India over the last seven years. Most of the victims worked in agriculture and were constantly exposed to high levels of pesticides and ate foods with pesticide residue. It’s not certain whether kidney disease is worsened by eating foods laced with pesticide residue or caused by exposure to pesticides, but the kidney has to excrete these toxins from the body and could be just one of many organs on the verge of failure.
- Skin Irritation: Skin irritation is another possible side effect of pesticides because the skin is the most likely to come into contact with these harmful chemicals. Since pesticides can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, it can easily cause cutaneous toxicity, rashes and skin infections such as ringworm and athlete’s foot. If enough pesticide is absorbed through the skin, it could cause severe toxic reactions and internal health problems.
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