Herbicides and Insecticides - History & Occurrence
It is a fact of life that human beings must
eat in order to survive. This need for food initiated the development
and spread of agriculture across the planet. As agricultural
methods were refined and sedentary societies began to flourish,
humanity began to take more control over the environment. Rather
than retaining their previous standing as powerless pawns to
natural cycles, people could now modify the environment in both
useful, and, in the last century, potentially harmful ways.
As technology and agricultural methods have developed, the chemical industry has fed the spiral of the ever increasing quantity and quality of agricultural goods by supplying the chemical tools known as pesticides. The
beneficial effects of using these chemicals (evident in the
bountiful supply of blemish-free fruits and vegetables) have
led to high consumer demand for quality agricultural products.
This high demand necessitates the ever increasing use of pesticides.
Unfortunately, pesticides can often move into the air and water
resources where they can have detrimental effects on humans
and other non-targets.
Pesticides include two classes of chemicals, insecticides and
herbicides. Insecticides are more commonly known and feared
for adverse effects, but herbicides are the larger threat due
to their higher concentration in water supplies (Gustafson,
1993). The threat of pesticides in drinking water varies, depending
upon where one lives and upon what source of drinking water
one uses. Deep groundwater wells are at less risk than shallow
wells. Also, a large, actively growing crop is able to use most,
if not all, of the water in the soil, thus greatly reducing
the level of pesticide chemicals in drinking water sources.
In areas with smaller crop distribution, pesticides will be
more prevalent in the water.
The next page provides more information on the specific pesticide chemicals in water and their specific adverse health effects.