Herbicides and Insecticides - Specific Chemicals and Health Effects
Pesticide use in the agricultural industry
began in earnest in the early 1940s. Although pesticide use
had been quite popular for more than twenty years, government
officials first became aware of the potential danger of pesticide
runoff to humans in the early 1960s when Rachel
Carson’s famous and influential Silent Spring was
published. Though this book warned mainly of the detrimental
effects of DDT (a popular insecticide developed in the early
1940s) for birds and other non-human victims, Carson’s work
inspired health officials to speculate about the effects of
pesticide runoff on humans. Recently, exposure to DDT was linked
disease. Because of concern over DDT’s adverse effects on
the environment and on people, this pesticide was banned in
1972. Despite the ban of DDT, pesticide use continues, and the
effects of some modern insecticides and herbicides can be just
as debilitating. Even through careful use, runoff from pesticides
continues to makes its way into drinking water sources. What
follows is a brief list of some of the more popular pesticides
and their adverse health effects when ingested:
- Alachlor: Alachlor is an herbicide that has been used to control mainly grassy weeds in corn, soybean, and peanut crops since 1969. Intake of Alachlor can lead to eye, liver, kidney or spleen problems, anemia, and increased risk of cancer (Gustafson, 1993).
The EPA lists maximum contaminant
levels (MCLs) for the presence of each of these pesticides in
drinking water. Unfortunately, these MCLs are not zero, and
even a small amount of ingested pesticide runoff can have detrimental
effects on the body.
- Atrazine: Atrazine has been widely used as an herbicide on sorghum and field corn for several decades. When ingested, Atrazine can lead to cardiovascular and/or reproductive problems.
- Endothall: Endothall has been used since 1995 as an herbicide on sugar beets, spinach, and potatoes. Intake of Endothall can cause stomach and intestinal problems.
- Lindane: Lindane is an insecticide currently
used on cattle, lumber, and gardens. Ingestion of Lindane
can cause liver or kidney problems.
- Methoxychlor: Methoxychlor is a widely used insecticide for fruits, vegetables, and livestock. Intake of Methoxychlor can lead to reproductive difficulties.