Human Health Problems
Though pesticides are never supposed to affect people, more and more studies suggest that pesticides do indeed affect human health. You do not need to be a farmer, a pesticide professional, or even the person in your home who applies the pesticides to be affected.
Beyond Pesticides' “Health Effects of 30 Commonly Used Lawn Pesticides” fact sheet (www.beyondpesticides.org/lawn/factsheets/30health.pdf) states that out of thirty common pesticides used on the lawn, nineteen can possibly cause cancer, twenty-one can have reproduction effects, eleven have the potential to alter your hormonal system, and thirteen are linked with birth defects. Pesticide exposure is thought to possibly contribute to many health problems such as:
The warning labels on pesticide bottles that say “DANGER,” “WARNING,” or “CAUTION” are there because of the short-term health dangers that can be caused by pesticides, such as skin and eye irritation and deadly poisoning. You must take proper precautions when using pesticides to prevent these immediate health risks.
If you think that you or any member of your family might have swallowed, inhaled, or have had your skin exposed to pesticides, it is important to call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at (800) 222-1222, or your local poison control center, for help in diagnosing and treating the problem. The National Pesticide Information Center at (800) 858-7378 can also answer nonemergency questions on the phone and offers a handy card (http://npic.orst.edu/PesticideEmergencyCard.pdf) to print out with emergency numbers that you should know.
The EPA's “Emergency Information” (www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/emergency.htm) warns that “Eye membranes absorb pesticides faster than any other external part of the body; eye damage can occur in a few minutes with some types of pesticides.” The EPA suggests to wash an eye exposed to pesticides with clean running water for at least fifteen minutes and to avoid using eye drops in the water.
Do not induce vomiting in a person who has swallowed a poison unless emergency personnel have told you to do so, because some products will cause more damage if they are vomited back up. Pesticide exposures to the skin should be washed quickly and thoroughly with soap and water, unless you are advised otherwise. If you have inhaled pesticides, get into fresh air immediately.
Children at Risk
Among those that are most vulnerable to pesticides are children, because of their increased exposure while playing in the yard and the tendency to ingest more products than adults do. The National Academy of Sciences has estimated that half of a person's lifetime exposure to pesticides comes before the age of six. Home and garden pesticides are thought to increase the risk of childhood leukemia by as much as seven times, while the chemicals are also linked to behavioral disorders and developmental delays.