Pests, which include diseases, animals, and insects, can destroy crops and present a danger to human health.
Chemical pest control products, or pesticides, are designed to eliminate these threats; however, they also present significant risks of their own, not only to the environment but also to humans. Pesticides can find their way into the water that people use, the air we breathe, and the soil. They can cause irritation of the skin and eyes, nausea, headaches, and other short-term harm. In addition, they can cause long-term health problems such as infertility, birth defects, cancer, or even death. Furthermore, synthetic pesticides can also kill beneficial insects such as pollinators like honeybees, which are necessary for the survival of many plants and crops. Insects, rodents, and weeds that have evolved to become resistant to pesticides are also an emerging problem that has resulted in a rise in crop losses.
Pesticides: Health Effects in Drinking Water: Chemicals leeching into the drinking water supply is an undesirable side effect of using pesticides. The Cornell Cooperative Extension website features a fact sheet about the dangers that this represents.
Pesticides: Harmful Effects and Emergency Response (PDF): Chemicals that people use to eliminate pests also present health risks to people. The University of Kentucky explains in this document the four ways in which humans can be exposed to pesticides, which are oral, inhalation, and through one's eyes or skin. It also discusses the three types of harmful effects that pesticides can cause, which are acute, allergic, and delayed effects.
Pesticides: What's My Risk? All chemical pesticides have some level of risk. The National Pesticide Information Center explains how the danger level of pesticides depends on the level of toxicity multiplied by how much exposure occurs.
Health Risks of Pesticides in Food (PDF): Learn about the dangers of pesticides in the food supply in this document by the Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health. It talks about the crops that people use pesticides to protect, the foods that are most contaminated by pesticides, methods by which people are exposed to pesticides, and the associated health risks.
Impacts of Pesticides on Wildlife: Pesticides can cause a number of negative issues for wildlife. The Beyond Pesticides website discusses these issues in their wildlife section. They also address the impact of pesticides on human health, the economy, and the environment.
Pesticides in Groundwater: Pesticides can seep into the ground and get into the groundwater, affecting water supplies and soil for decades. The United States Geological Survey website talks about how these chemicals seep into the water table and includes a diagram of how this happens.
Potential Health Effects of Pesticides: The hazard level of insecticides depends on the level of toxicity and how much exposure one has to the chemicals. This website features an article that lists insecticides and herbicides by their toxicity, their harmful effects, and the symptoms of poisoning.
What Gardeners Should Know About Pesticides (PDF): Learn about the proper use of pesticides in this 62-page document from Purdue University. It talks about the five ways that gardeners can defend their plants, with pesticides being the last option.
Understanding Common House and Garden Insecticides: Insecticides vary widely in how safe they are to use. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension provides a fact sheet here with a list of categories of insecticides and their relative levels of safety.
Citizen Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety (PDF): Learn about pest control and various forms of pesticides by clicking this link. This document talks about pest control methods, chemical pesticides, how to avoid harmful exposure to chemical pest control products, and what to do in case one is poisoned.
Human Health and Pesticides (PDF): Visitors to the Iowa State University website can find useful information about the benefits and risks of pesticides in this document.
Pesticide Mixtures May Increase Health Risks But Are Still Unregulated by California, UCLA Report Says: Learn about unregulated pesticide solutions in a news release by UCLA. It discusses how people may be exposed to several different types of pesticides and the risk this presents of dangerous and unforeseen health consequences.
Managing the Risk of Pesticide Poisoning (PDF): Visit the University of Nebraska Lincoln website for a guide to the risks of pesticide exposure. It includes a diagram of the human body and how much each part may be exposed to these chemicals.
How Toxic Are These Pesticides? Learn about the ways in which pesticides can harm people in this article by McDaniel College. It discusses how many Americans die per year as a result of pesticide poisoning, methods of exposure, health hazards, and the special risks of exposure in children.
Synthetic Pesticides: This article on the UC San Diego website focuses on the history of dangerous pesticides such as DDT and Dursban and the harm that they did to people before they were banned in the United States. It also discusses the problem of pest species that have become resistant to certain synthetic pest control chemicals.