Pesticides are chemicals that make our produce perfect, and our yards free of pests. However, this perfection comes at a price to many different people. Pesticides are poisons with the sole purpose of killing. They are intended to kill weeds, insects and fungus. There are three types of pesticides called herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. Every pesticide has an active ingredient, and an inert ingredient. The active ingredient is the poison that kills he pest, and the inert ingredient is the carrying, or spreading compound. (Honey pg. 2) Pesticides were once thought of as a miracle cure for hunger. They were supposed to keep crops free of pests, and misquitos under control. People were not aware of the dangers that these poisons possessed. DDT* was supposed to be a, “benefactor for all humanity” (Honey pg. 2).
There were few regulations on the use of DDT use. It was even sprayed where children played. It was intended to kill misquitos, but it ended up poisoning, even killing people. (Honey pg.2) Elizabeth Rollings says that one of her teachers, Mrs. Keller, had a sister that died from DDT poisoning when Mrs. Keller was a child. People came to her house that sprayed the bushes with DDT to control misquitos, and when Mrs. Keller and her sister played near the bushes they were exposed to the deadly poison. Now a days the U.S. has seen the dangers that pesticides possess and banned many kinds from use in this country. However, the U.S. has yet to ban them from being made here and exported to foreign countries. In fact, 25 tons are exported every hour. (Honey pg. 1) There are three main problems with this: the regulations are very low in the places the U.S. exports to, many of the people in those places are unaware of the dangers, and the pesticides can return on the produce that the U.S. imports.
A specific example of how unaware the people are is an incident in Costa Rica. The field workers in a sugar plantation were not told of the dangers of the pesticides that they applied, and they were not given any protective clothing. Many of them went shirtless, and in tennis shoes with no socks. They had used this pesticide for several days when many began to complain of headache and nausea; some began to vomit blood. One man died, but fortunately the problem was discovered in time to treat the rest of the workers before they died. Another of the problems that arise from pesticide exportation is getting it back in the produce we import from these countries. One third of the poison banned in the U.S. returns in what is being called the circle of poison, which is when pesticides that are exported and used on produce that return on the produce, back to the people it was being meant to keep away from. (Scanlan pg.1) To avoid this, many people are shopping at health food stores where pesticides have not been used on the food.
There is a basic progression that occurs when the body is poisoned by a pesticide. First there is a biochemical inactivation of an enzyme. Next this biochemical change leads to cellular change. Then the cellular change causes symptoms of poisoning seen or felt in the particular organ where the enzyme that was deactivated was. All this changes a body’s homeostasis*, and when homeostasis can not be maintained or restored, disease occurs. Most effects aren’t permanent, but may take a long time to completely recover from. However, some do cause permanent damage. The damage of pesticide poisoning varies. It can effect just one particular organ system, or it can effect a number of organ systems.( GTI. Manifestations of Toxic Effects. pg 1) Another problem that pesticide poisoning possess is detection.
A history of being exposed to chemicals can cause illness that can be hard to distinguish from a viral infection, such as the flu. One might go to long without treatment thinking they have a virus that they will eventually overcome, when in reality they have been poisoned by pesticides, which can lead to worse and worse damage over time. “People who handle chemicals frequently in the course of their jobs and become ill, should tell their physicians about their previous exposure to chemicals.” (GTI Manifestations of Toxic Effects) The statistics of harm from pesticides are numerous. “Each year 25 million people, primarily from the Southern Hemisphere, are poisoned through occupational exposure to pesticides; of those 220,000 die.” Pesticides have been linked to cancer in many situations, but, “scientists do not yet understand exactly how cancer occurs or why some chemicals seem to cause cancer and other do not.” (GTI Carcinology pg. 1)
High concentrations of DDT have been found in the breast milk of mothers in Central America. Also, a study in 1993 revealed that higher levels of DDE* have been found in U.S. women with breast cancer, than in those women who do not have breast cancer. “At least 136 active ingredients in pesticides have been found to cause cancer in humans or animals.” (Honey pg. 1) Next time you go to the super market remember, “The abundance and variety of fresh, picture perfect produce is brought to you and your family at a price, not just at the cash register.” (Honey pg. 1)
The price is also paid by the workers, and users of deadly pesticides, of the fields we import food from. IT might shock you to know that 79, of the 136 proven carcinogenic* pesticides are used on you to this day! (Honey page 1) *Homeostasis is the maintaining of the body’s life functions. *DDT is a pesticide used to kill misquitos. *DDE is the chemical compound that occurs when DDT breaks down. *GTI is short for Guelph Turfgrass Institute. * Carcinogenic means cancer causing. If something is carcinogenic then that means it causes cancer.