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Effects of Pesticides on the Environment and Human Health

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Introduction

A pesticide refers to a toxic chemical or a mixture of biological substances that objectively used to control and destroy insects, pests, weeds, and other animals or plants by releasing the chemical to their immediate environment. These chemicals function by attracting the pests then eliminating them from their host environment. On the other hand, pests refer to animals or plants that pose a threat to the life of other plants and animals through their health, food, or other comforts. In the recent past, the use of pesticides has significantly increased due to the increase in the environmental factors favoring their habitation. According to Chowdhury et al. (2012), the current annual volume of pesticides used annually stands at approximately 5.4 billion cubic centimeters.  As a result, there has been increased environmental pollution that is dangerous to animal and plant life. After use, pesticide residuals remain in the foodstuffs, suspended particles in the atmosphere, and absorbed in the soil resulting in a serious environmental hazard. This paper is focused on evaluating various impacts of pesticide usage on the environment and human health.

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Public Health Implications of Pesticide Use

The use of harmful pesticides has been largely attributed to various incidences of human poisoning and genetic disorders in the public domain. On an annual basis, approximately 65,000 cases of pesticide poisoning are usually reported in averagely 30 health facilities in the United States. However, more cases are usually reported in the developing countries that have poor pesticide management programs to protect people from the effects. There are increasing concerns regarding the number of pesticide poisoning and homicides presumably due to the mental problems associated with prolonged exposure to pesticides. Therefore, it’s important that individuals undergo detoxification processes after exposure to pesticides to reduce the likely effects (Mostafalou & Abdollahi, 2013). This intervention can be improved by individual knowledge of the pesticide that caused poisoning for easy treatment.

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Impacts of Pesticides on the Environment

Threatens Biodiversity

The toxic substances used in pesticides result in harmful effects that significantly affect various aspects of human existence over time. However, accumulation of these toxins in the various components of the food chain is the most worrying because it threatens the life of raptors and predators. For instance, the use of pesticides such as the fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides has adversely contributed to the population decline among the rare bird and animal species. It’s predicted that continued use of harmful chemicals found in the pesticides will result in bioaccumulation, which is a great threat to biodiversity.

Harms Aquatic Life

When the pesticides find their way to the water bodies either through soil leaching, drift, runoff streams, or direct application in the case of mosquito control, they interfere with the aquatic diversity due to the change in the chemical properties of the water body. The water bodies that are contaminated with pesticides, therefore, may result in the death of aquatic animals and plant through oxygen deprivation and intake of toxic substances in the water. Additionally, water contamination by pesticides results in behavioral and psychological changes in the marine life.

Harms Terrestrial Biodiversity

Exposure of pesticides to the environment not only affects the weeds and pests they were intended to control but also all other living organisms in the environment. This due to the sub-lethal impacts on the terrestrial life after prolonged accumulation. Pesticides react with the environment resulting on volatilization that results in harmful consequences on the biodiversity in the surrounding environment. Additionally, the pesticides cause harm to bees and beetles which are important for the ecosystem. For instance, the use of triazole and pyrethroid pesticides results in the death of bees that are important for honey production.

Impacts of Pesticides on Human Health

Despite that, the usage of pesticides has significantly improved the quality of human life by facilitating the control of insects that cause the spread of vector-borne diseases, extended and indiscriminate use has resulted in adverse health effects on human beings. The increase in pesticide usage over the last three decades has considerably resulted in the increase in the human exposure to the harmful chemicals. The World Health Organization reported around 3.4 million incidents of pesticide poisoning as well as 222,000 deaths resulting from the pesticide use annually in the developing countries (Edwards, 2013).

Toxic chemicals found in the pesticides enter the human body through inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the human skin. However, the majority of the cases of pesticide poisoning results from the intake of contaminated foodstuffs. The chemicals used in the manufacture of these pesticides are highly insoluble thus find their way to the human tissues without undergoing digestion. Despite the body protection mechanisms that eliminate the toxic substances in the body functioning well, some of the toxins still remain in the human tissues after getting absorbed into the bloodstream. However, the impacts of pesticide usage on human beings are considerably variable thus may take quite a long period of time to show.

The human exposure to pesticides results in the immediate environment is manifested through skin itching, irritation of the nasal systems, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, nausea, dizziness, and blurred vision. However, there are cases of chronic poisoning that is highly harmful to human beings. This includes the effects on the neurological system manifested through memory loss, reduced visual abilities, and poor coordination (Blair et al., 2015). Additionally, long-term exposure to the harmful chemicals damages the lungs, liver, and the general immune system resulting in prolonged illnesses and cancer. Additionally, pesticide usage results in mental problems due to the genetic interactions.

The use of pesticides can be traced back to the agricultural revolution when pests started becoming a threat to food security by damaging crops. Over time, the usage of pesticides has evolved from agricultural use to a wide range of other uses. This has been the reason behind increased pesticide usage in the current compared to the past. The pesticide usage was diversified after the first attempt of aerial pesticide application in the United States in 1921. As a result, the manufacturing of agricultural chemicals expanded since aerial spraying of crops was highly effective. In 1939, Paul Muller invented the discholrophenyltrichloroethane (DDT) that was used to kill lice and mosquitoes during the World War II (Edwards, 2013). However, this chemical has become a great threat to the environment three decades later. When the effects of pesticide use became adverse in 1962, Rachel Carson conducted a research on the biological impacts of the chemicals. This resulted in the ban of most pesticides in the United States in the early 1970s. However, this did not stop pesticide usage which has progressed to date. However, more environmentally friendly pesticides have been manufactured to protect the Eco-diversity.  The future of pesticide usage remains bright as the only pest management method despite the efforts of governments to ensure the manufacture of less harmful pesticides.

Public Health Theories

The change model has been used to explain the attitudes of the modern society towards the use of pesticides. This public health theory is applied to every aspect of interventions aimed at environmental protection and addressing human health concerns. The harmful effects of the pesticide usage informed the formulation of policies aimed at facilitating the application of integrated pesticide management interventions as well as manufacturing of eco-friendly pesticides. Additionally, the planned behavior theory has been used to explain the current and future trends in the usage of the pest control chemicals based on the desire to implement favorable pest control policies.

Developing Proactive Solutions

The projected health and environmental trends in the pesticide use is a clear sign that the modern society is in a serious health crisis. This acts as a guide to the research and development of protective measures to develop and implement proactive solutions to the pesticide usage. For instance, the implementation of a proactive pest management program is focused on minimizing the residual impacts of pesticide usage on human life and the environment (Gavrilescu et al., 2015). The banning of the production and use of some pesticides is purely based on environmental projections.

Monitoring Success of Environmental Health and Future Intervention

Development of new interventions to mitigate the environmental issues resulting from pesticide use is based on effective monitoring of the success of various intervention strategies that have been implemented. The process of planning, implementing, and assessing the success monitoring strategies in the scope of public health is critical in detecting the changes in various aspects of public health. Based on the assumption that research should apply the current state in the prediction of future trends, it’s imperative that effective policies should be developed and applied to properly assess the current state of the environment with regard to pesticide use (Kim et al., 2017). Additionally, successful implementation of monitoring policies is critical to inform the budgeting and resource allocation strategies. Various federal, state and local government agencies such as the California pesticide regulatory program are focused on ensuring the environment and the general public is protected from harmful pesticides. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States has the core mandate of setting standards for pesticide use as well as ensuring compliance with the set standards.

Conclusion

Pesticide usage has added invaluable value to human life by helping to manage and eliminate harmful pests and plants. This has resulted in significantly improved agricultural yields thus better food security for the growing populations. However, the sustained use of pesticides has adverse impacts on human life and the general environment. Pesticide poisoning results in health complications that result in physical and mental disorders in human beings. Consequently, prolonged exposure of the pesticides to the environment results in the loss of diversity through the death of plants and marine life. Therefore, it’s important that governments develop various strategies to ensure the production of pesticides with minimal impact on the environment as well as the enactment of pesticide use control policies.

1. Aktar,W., Sengupta, D., & Chowdhury, A. (2012) Impact of Pesticides use in Agriculture: Their Benefits and Hazards. Interdisciplinary Toxicology 2:1–12

2. Blair, A., Ritz, B., Wesseling, C., & Freeman, L. B. (2015). Pesticides and human health.

3. Edwards, C. A. (Ed.). (2013). Environmental pollution by pesticides (Vol. 3). Springer Science & Business Media.

4. Gavrilescu, M., Demnerová, K., Aamand, J., Agathos, S., & Fava, F. (2015). Emerging pollutants in the environment: present and future challenges in biomonitoring, ecological risks and bioremediation. New biotechnology, 32(1), 147-156.

5. Kim, K. H., Kabir, E., & Jahan, S. A. (2017). Exposure to pesticides and the associated human health effects. Science of The Total Environment, 575, 525-535.

6. Mostafalou, S., & Abdollahi, M. (2013). Pesticides and human chronic diseases: evidences, mechanisms, and perspectives. Toxicology and applied pharmacology, 268(2), 157-177.

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