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Pesticides are toxic chemical substances targeted mainly on pests to protect crops from their harmful effects and to promote plant growth. Unfortunately, exposure to pesticides by humans can cause several health effects and chronic diseases.
What Are Pesticides?
Pesticides are chemical compounds which are used to kill, control, or repel certain harmful animals or plants that are treated as pests. They include insecticides for controlling insects, herbicides for destroying unwanted vegetation, fungicides for controlling the fungus, disinfectant for killing a wide range of microorganisms, and other repellant compounds to control mice and rats.
Pesticides are potentially toxic to pests and also harm humans if not used or disposed of properly.
Exposure To Pesticides
Farmers or farmworkers who spend most of their time in the treatment of crops, grains, plants are at higher risk of getting exposed to pesticides . Workers of forestry and domestic pest control are at risk through the treatment of boat hulls, wood with preservatives, and the anti-parasitic preparations. People also get exposed to pesticides when it is sprayed on parks, playgrounds, and pavements. Many people usually buy it for garden use and thus, puts the food they grow at risk as well .
Consequently, pesticides are useful in controlling malaria, dengue, and other vector diseases but te exposure to it, for a short or long term, can cause several health issues. They can affect the reproductive system, cause neurological problems, and can also lead to cancer.
Pesticide exposure is also associated with a decrease in neurobehavioral performance and nerve function abnormalities . Exposure to moderate or small levels of pesticides is also neurotoxic.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, children of age 13-19 who are living in agricultural areas where pesticides are used in large amount are likely to suffer from brain disorders.
Effects Of Pesticides On The Brain
1. Cause depression
Several pieces of evidence connect depression to pesticide exposure. According to a study, out of 567 recruited farmers between 1998-2000 in France, 83 farmers had reported symptoms of depression. WHO estimates that among 2000, depression ranked fourth for the causes of disability as it affects mental, physical, and social functioning that ultimately leads to cognitive dysfunction.
A report generated based on data from 21000 pesticide applicators suggest that people who have used different classes of pesticides or have a pesticide poisoning incident had reported higher rates of mental illness and depression .
2. Affect the teenage brain
As per the report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the cerebral cortex of 20 children has outgrown in their mother's womb due to exposure to chlorpyrifos, a kind of pesticide used on crops, buildings, animals including worms and insects. Another published study shows that pesticide-exposed children are more likely to suffer from mental disorders, autism, attention deficit, psychomotor delays, and other neurological disorders .
3. Cause sensory and motor dysfunction
In a study, it was found that farmers who are exposed to multiple pesticides have decreased sensitivity along with multiple signs of peripheral neuropathy .
4. Cause Parkinson disease
Pesticide exposure can increase the risk of Parkinson disease. Studies suggest that there's a connection between Parkinson disease risk and residing in rural areas, doing farming as an occupation, and drinking water from the local water sources .
5. Impact on other body parts
Apart from hampering the brain, pesticides also affect other parts of the body. They cause lung dysfunction, severe liver damage, birth defects, suppress the immune system, and other acute toxicity like allergies, eye and skin irritation, vomiting, headache, nausea, and weakness .
Prevention Tips Against Pesticides
- Buy organic foods and vegetables .
- Wash vegetables and fruits before consumption.
- Grow vegetables at your garden.
- Avoid commercial pest control methods.
- Wash feet before entering the house to avoid pesticides residue at home.
Alternatives To Pesticides
Pesticides are harmful for the environment and public health. Though they are effective for the plants, they are regarded as as toxins. Fortunately, there are other alternatives to pesticides which are non-hazardous and control the pest populations. The alternatives are
- crop rotation,
- diversified planting,
- biodegradable pest control pesticides, and
- trap plant method.