About a week ago, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted a cooperative agreement to continue work with the National Pesticide Information Center (1). This five-year co-op is set to provide up to $1 million annually to the organization’s research. Some would think that this is another way the government is trying to use money for pointless research that in no way affects the average joe, but this is not true. To truly understand it, knowing what pesticides are and their effects on both the environment and people are necessary.
What are pesticides?
When hearing this word, most will probably think of the sprays that kill the bothersome weeds in the lawn. These are, in fact, a form of some of the common pesticides that are used by people. The easiest way to break down what they are is to understand the etymology of the word itself. The suffix, “-cide,” comes from the Latin word that means “to kill”, which is understandable considering what pesticides are (2). Taking this into account, the literal meaning of the word is to kill pests.
What are pesticides used for?
There are many different types of pesticides, each of which have specific purposes. Some are made to kill a certain species. Some are made to regulate growth. The specific type of pesticide this article started with was the herbicide, which are used to control weeds. Another form of pesticides are insect growth regulators. This specific type of insecticide is used to influence young insects’ growth and reproduction (2). These two are just common examples of pesticides, as there are many more variations with different targets.
How is food affected by pesticides?
Since they are used for unwanted pests such as weeds and insects, pesticides can easily get into fresh produce. By way of wind or water, these pest killers can affect more than just their targeted crop (3). They get into the soil and are absorbed by plants. Since they are in the plants, they can be consumed by animals and people.
What is the impact on human health?
Made to kill, pesticides can have some harmful impacts on humans. Long time exposure to these chemicals can cause a myriad of symptoms. These can range from headaches to liver diseases to nerve damage (3). Being exposed to these multiple chemicals in food can have a toll on people.
All of the short and long term effects of pesticides aren’t fully known. More knowledge is needed to understand them. Continuing to put resources into understanding the environmental and health results can only bring more good. For more information on this matter, visit http://npic.orst.edu.
(1) “EPA Solicits Proposals for a Cooperative Agreement to Conduct the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC).” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 29 May 2018, http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/epa-solicits-proposals-cooperative-agreement-conduct-national-pesticide-information.
(2) “Types of Pesticides.” National Pesticide Information Center, npic.orst.edu/ingred/ptype/index.html.
(3) Hicks, Bridget. “Agricultural Pesticides and Human Health.” Teach the Earth, Carleton College, 14 Nov. 2016, serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/pesticides.html.