Pesticide Exposure of Families in Agricultural Communities

Pesticide Exposure of Families in Agricultural Communities
Pesticide Exposure of Families in Agricultural Communities

Pesticide Exposure of Families in Agricultural Communities : Progressive industrialization has resulted in the production of a multitude of toxic chemicals that are released into the air, water, and soil on a daily basis. These chemicals or pollutants are not only hazardous to our ecosystem and ecological equilibrium but also lead to various health issues affecting the human population.

While most of the focus is placed on polluting industries, the toxic effects of some herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides, a major source of environmental devastation are caused by modern food production.

There are approximately 3 million farmers in the United States: about two million are family farmworkers and another one million are individuals employed in the agriculture sector. Every chemical class of pesticides has at least one agent capable of causing a broad range of chronic health effects. Pesticides are widely used, and over time, low doses of exposure can increase the risks of Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes, gluten intolerance, infertility, hormone disruption, and reproduction disorders.

Houses and schools in rural communities frequently border fields exposing families and children to pesticide drift (the movement of droplets of pesticide spray that through wind is taken away from the target application area) as they engage in their daily routines.

Pediatric Cancers, Neurological Problems, and Birth Defects Linked to Pesticides, on the Rise

Pesticide exposure can result in devastating health consequences in people of all ages, but children face the greatest danger of all, because:

  • their physiological development also creates unique health vulnerabilities after they have been exposed (for example an infant’s brain, nervous system, and organs are still developing after birth);
  • a baby’s immature hepatic and renal systems cannot remove pesticides from the body as well as an adult’s liver and kidneys;
  • compared with adults, infants take more breaths per minute and also have more skin surface area with which to absorb toxicants;
  • they eat three to four times more food per pound of body weight than adults, which can lead to a higher dose of pesticide residue per pound of body weight;
  • when babies roll over and acrawl they have a greater potential to dislodge pesticide residue onto their skin or breathe in pesticide-laden dust;
  • they are also more likely to put their fingers, toys, and other objects into their mouths.

Researchers also noted that children commonly play in fields where pesticides are present and that women frequently wash contaminated clothes with their bare hands.

The evidence linking pesticide exposure to childhood cancers and neurobehavioral delays such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder has grown increasingly strong. If you are a parent living in a rural community, you might spend time worrying about your children’s exposure to pesticides that drift from agricultural fields.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), disorders of neurobehavioral development affect 10–15% of all babies born in the U.S. Although the root causes are only partly understood, environmental exposures are involved in causation, in some cases probably by interacting with genetically inherited predispositions.

A Widely Used Pesticide Could Damage the Brain and May Even Lead to a Higher Risk of Parkinson’s Disease, Studies Say

There is strong scientific evidence indicating that certain chemicals, like paraquat, harm DNA and neurological structures that may cause or increase the likelihood of Parkinson’s disease. In fact, the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease is so well known in the scientific community that the chemical is used to induce this neurodegenerative disorder in lab rats in order to study it. Parkinson’s disease is a long-term, degenerative, neurological disease caused by a loss of neurons and the dopamine neurotransmitter they produce. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation reports that this disease affects approximately 1 million Americans.

Paraquat is a highly toxic weed killer (herbicide). In the past, the United States encouraged Mexico to use it to destroy illicit marijuana crops. Later, research showed this herbicide is extremely toxic for ecosystems and human health. There is strong scientific evidence indicating that those exposed to paraquat in their teens and young adult years had an increased Parkinson’s risk of 200 to 600.

In the United States, people must obtain a license to use the paraquat-based products, as the chemical is classified as “restricted commercial use.”

The chemical also poses a threat to families living in and around farms where the herbicide has been used, due to pesticide drift, which can occur during application and afterward carried by vapors, resulting in airborne dust or droplets that settle outside of the area targeted for use, increasing the range of exposure, and affecting nearby homes, schools, and other sensitive sites throughout communities.

An agricultural health study found that exposure to paraquat within 1,600 feet of a home increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 75 percent. Another study found that people exposed to paraquat in their teen or young adult years had an increased risk of 200 to 600 percent.

We believe that everyone, regardless of their age, race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, or gender, deserves to live in an environment free from harmful toxins that may give them cancer, infertility, brain tumors, or cause health problems for future generations.

Sadly, the application of pesticides will always be a paradox of creating safety through the use of harmful chemicals and the risks to the environment, society, and the health of the general public will always be of concern. However, farming without the use of chemicals as fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides can prevent pollution of soil, water, and air and accumulation of chemicals in the food chain.





Eddie Perry is a legal counsel at the Environmental Litigation Group a law firm located on Birmingham’s Southside, that handles cases of occupational exposure to harmful airborne substances, including exposure to highly hazardous pesticides such as paraquat.






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Pesticide Exposure of Families in Agricultural Communities

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