What’s the big deal about pesticides?


By pH health care professionals

Pesticides have a bad name among health-conscious consumers. Many are concerned about the health implications of pesticide exposure, especially among children, pets and the shrinking honeybee population. But farmers who use them might say that pesticides are necessary chemicals for protecting their crops from parasitic insects and a multitude of plant diseases. Farmers constantly face the challenge of new and old crop diseases, and they have to make sure their crops aren’t responsible for spreading any illnesses among consumers.

Pesticides are used in large amounts with the bulk of them being in the United States, totaling about 1/3 of the global use. Several European countries have banned certain pesticides that are still permitted in the U.S. But while the U.S. government is very much aware of pesticide issues, it has to walk the fine line between consumer demands and necessity and productivity in the agricultural industry.

Poisoning from pesticides rarely affects consumers, but workers in close contact, who are spraying plants and trees, certainly can be affected. However, pesticides, even in small quantities, can create subtle changes in human health over time. So let’s be proactive and understand how pesticides may be affecting your health.

How are pesticides approved for use?

Pesticides are regulated by government agencies. They are typically tested for effectiveness on crops and in research laboratories using animals. Typically, animals are exposed to different doses of individual chemicals, either by inhalation, on their skin or oral ingestion. Researchers observe and record the effects of those chemicals in regards to behavioral or movement disorders, development of tumors and cancers, effects on agility and learning, and the effects on reproductive systems.

What problems are attributed to certain pesticides?

Acute pesticide poisoning usually occurs in agricultural settings, when workers come in close contact with large amounts of pesticides by inhalation or skin exposureThis can cause skin rashes, breathing problems, nasal congestion, dizziness, headaches, a fast heart rate or even passing out. Fortunately, fatalities are not as common.

Chronic pesticide poisoning is much more insidious and much more common. This is when smaller quantities of chemicals affect the body over time. Potential problems include:

  • Fertility problems: Certain pesticides have been shown to cause male infertility.
  • Cancer and tumor development: Exposure to certain pesticides has been shown to increase rates of various cancers.
  • Neurotoxicity: Because some of these poisons attack the nervous system of insects, some of them can potentially harm human cells as well. This may cause accelerated mental decline, affecting cognition or intelligence, as well as neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s.
  • Immune suppression: Chemicals may be blocking the natural responses of the immune system, which is responsible for protecting the body.
  • Pesticides can act as hormone disruptors, leading to impairment of the thyroid, adrenal gland and sex hormones.
  • Birth defects: Some studies suggest a weak link, but risks do seem to exist.

How can we test for and minimize intake of pesticides?

Although there are thousands for different pesticides, they belong to certain chemical families. There are a few laboratories that offer these specialized tests.

In addition to testing the toxin levels in your body, you can also:

  • Learn more about where your food comes from and how it’s produced or grown.
  • Petition for safer pesticides when it is shown that certain pesticides are a hazard to your health.
  • Check websites for safety of food products. There are both governmental and commercial websites for this.
  • Limit pesticide use in your own home by choosing organic produce.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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