Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pollution from pesticides - Quick facts

The official definition of pesticide is "any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying or controlling any pest". Though farmers have no doubt certain benefits from using pesticides there are also some major drawbacks because pesticides are not only capable to create significant damage to environment but also to human health.

Since many pesticides are toxic they can become major source of pollution, and even the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants states that 10 of the 12 most dangerous and persistent organic chemicals are pesticides. In fact, there are some pesticides which are considered too dangerous for sale to the general public and are designated restricted use pesticides.

It has been estimated that around 98% of sprayed insecticides and 95% of herbicides reach a destination other than their target species, which means that they can easily become a major source of environmental pollution, and can not only harm other creatures beside pests but can also become a major cause of air and water pollution, as well as deteriorate the soil quality.

Pesticides are also believed to be one of the main causes responsible for recent decline of bee population across the globe, so they can also do significant damage to biodiversity, and destroy habitats of many animal and plant species.

Pesticides can also cause significant damage to human health, so people should limit their exposure to them as much as possible, and wherever possible use some safer alternative.

According to the official data from World Health Organization each year around 3 million workers in agriculture in the developing world experience severe poisoning from pesticides, and about 18,000 people die each year as a result of this.

The Bhopal disaster is the most infamous disaster connected with pesticides, this occurred in 1984 when a pesticide plant released 40 tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, a chemical intermediate in the synthesis of some carbamate pesticides. The disaster immediately killed nearly 2,259 people and ultimately caused at least 15,000 deaths.

So why are pesticides still so widely used? Some studies have found out that if people were to stop using pesticides this would likely reduce crop yields by around 10% which would likely lead to rise of food prices, and on global level an increase of hunger in the world.

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