Pesticides have had their fair share of praises and criticisms over the years. After all, by their very nature, they do run the risk of causing harm to humans, animals and the environment. Pesticides are designed for killing, and it is for that stance alone that some have been much skeptical about their frequent use.
On the other hand, pesticides are also useful to society. For once, they were created to destroy organisms that bring about harm. In addition to that, they help control insects, weeds and other pest. As a result, they help crop growers, and in turn, the economy.
Even with the many benefits, a lot have echoed mistrust over the type of chemicals being used. Those issues have been addressed over the years as manufacturers now come out with biologically-based pesticides such as pheromones and microbial pesticides. These kinds of pesticides have become increasingly popular and are deemed safer then traditional chemical pesticides. For its part, the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA is also registering reduced-risk conventional pesticides.
A Look at Pesticides
Pesticides are created for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest. And by pest, that refers to living organisms that occur where they are not wanted and also cause damage to crops, humans and other animals. Examples of pests include insects, mice and other animals, unwanted plants (weeds), fungi, microorganisms (bacteria and viruses) and prions.
A lot of household products contain pesticides, and among these include:
– cockroach sprays and baits.
– insect repellants (for personal use).
– rat and other rodent poisons.
– flea and tick sprays, powders and pet collars.
– kitchen, laundry and bath disinfectants and sanitizers.
– products that kill mold and mildew.
– certain lawn and garden products like weed killers.
– certain swimming pool chemicals.
Whether for use commercially or domestically there will always be a debate that surrounds pesticides. For one, families with young children need to take extra precaution when using pesticides at home because one false move by a child can lead to so much damage. For instance, a child’s curiosity might be piqued after they see some insect bait and may want to touch it or worse, try to taste it.
That is a scenario parents want to avoid, but it does expose a certain difficulty because you also want to protect your home but in doing so, you’re also putting your child at risk. Thankfully these days, there are certain pesticides being produced that aren’t that much harmful but then again it also doesn’t mean people should be lenient in the way they handle these things.
Pesticides are both harmful and useful, and the lists below showcase the two sides of its use:
List of Pros of Pesticides
1. It controls organisms that are considered harmful
Pesticides are used to kill mosquitoes which are known carriers of potentially deadly diseases such as West Nile virus, yellow fever and malaria. No one wants these diseases to infect humans and that is what pesticides are there for: to prevent them from ever doing so.
Also, bees, wasps or ants can cause allergic reactions in certain people. The severity of the reaction varies as well. Using pesticides is one way to ensure that the chances of getting an allergic reaction are reduced. It’s a fact that allergic reactions can be caused by factors other than insects, and with pesticides, at least the insect portion is dealt with.
Animals are also protected by pesticides. Parasites like fleas love to make life a living hell for animals, and we humans need to shield animals from such discomfort. The sight of an animal suffering because of a flea infestation is not a sight owners want to see. Using pesticides is one good way to ensure that fleas are rid of, and continued use of such products reduces the chances of having an infection again.
Plants benefit from pesticides too. Weeds are the last thing anyone needs growing around their crops, and the aid of pesticides, this can be prevented. Not only do weeds hurt crops, they also cause environmental damage. So, having pesticides to keep these unwanted elements from affecting your livelihood and the environment surely help.
2. It is readily available
You don’t need to see a specialist when you want to get your hands on pesticides. Whether you want to get rid of weeds or fleas on your pet, you can find pesticides readily available for you to use.
3. It helps farmers
A study found that not using pesticides reduced crop yields up to 10%. With climate change being a reality, some farmers are finding it harder to grow crops. Add the insect and weed factor and you have a complete mess of a business. How can farmers raise and harvest crops when they won’t grow, and if they grow, pests are there to take away the fruits of their labor?
This is where pesticides come in to help. At least, with it being used around a farm, there is still a chance for farmers to get earn something when the harvest comes around.
List of Cons of Pesticides
1. It affects human health
It is shown that pesticides can cause acute and delayed effects in people who are exposed to them. A variety of health effects is experienced from a simple eye or skin irritation to something more severe such as affecting the nervous system, imitating hormones thereby causing reproductive issues and causing cancer.
In a 2007 systemic review, it was found that “most studies on Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia showed positive associations with pesticide exposure.” Although it has been brought up, there are limited evidence for pesticides resulting in negative outcomes for birth defects and fetal death.
According to the World Health Organization and the UN Environment Programme, about three million workers in agriculture in the developing world experience severe poisoning from pesticides. Of those, about 18,000 die.
Even worse, one third of suicides around the world is attributed to pesticide self-poisoning. Also, a study found evidence – but not conclusive – linking exposure to certain pesticides to autism.
2. It affects the environment
More than 98% of sprayed insecticides and 95% of herbicides reach a destination other than their intended target. In other words, non-target species, air, water and soil get affected. The phenomenon is called a pesticide drift where air carries the pesticides to other areas resulting in contamination. One of the causes of water pollution has been attributed to pesticides.