Pesticide exposure remains a very serious health issue, despite clamors from environmentalists and concerned citizens to ban the use of these substances on crops. However, pesticide use is not limited to the farming industry. In fact, most households have pesticides in aerosol cans that exterminate disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes, cockroaches and flies.
Pesticide Exposure Effects
The effects of pesticides on health are divided into two categories based on exposure: acute and long term.
Acute Pesticide Exposure
Acute exposure occurs in cases of pesticide poisoning. The symptom severity depends on the type of pesticide, dose and susceptibility. You are particularly susceptible to acute pesticide exposure if you have hypersensitivity to chemicals, asthma or a weak immune system, and if you are pregnant or an elderly person.
Acute exposure should be suspected if you exhibit symptoms, the foremost of which is an itchy, burning or stinging sensation in the eyes, nose, throat and skin. Accompanying symptoms are headache and dizziness, nausea and/or vomiting, coughing, wheezing and diarrhea. If these symptoms are present and pesticide poisoning is suspected, go to the nearest hospital or poison control center for immediate treatment.
Long Term Pesticide Exposure
Long-term exposure refers to regular and constant exposure to low levels of pesticides. Although there is still considerable debate on the effects of long-term pesticide exposure to health, owing to the fact that ongoing research requires decades before a conclusion could be arrived at, early data collected so far have demonstrated numerous harmful effects to body systems.
If you are constantly exposed to pesticides, you are prone to recurring or persistent abdominal pains, loss of appetite and weight loss. Respiratory system symptoms include recurrent upper respiratory infections, persistent colds and coughs, and asthma.
If you are a man, regular exposure to pesticides can cause sterility, a decrease in sperm count and abnormalities in the sperms. If you are a woman, you can have difficulty in achieving pregnancy, or are prone to spontaneous abortion and fetal death in utero. Babies born from mothers who had constant exposure to pesticides during pregnancy could suffer from altered growth and birth defects.
Impairment of your immune system makes you susceptible to infectious diseases and predisposes you to the development of cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and cervical, prostate and testicular cancers.
The effects of pesticide exposure on the nervous system include decreased coordination and stamina, impairment of learning faculties and memory loss. Also noted are numbness, tingling and other sensory symptoms, and impairment of motor function. There is an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Pesticide Exposure Risks to Children
Children are most vulnerable to the detrimental effects of pesticide exposure, mainly because their bodies and organs are not yet fully developed to deal with toxins. One noticeable harmful effect is a slower growth rate and low-for-age weight.
Neurotoxins, such as pyrethroid allethrin, affect the development of the nervous system, and may cause damage to neurons that would lead to neurological deficits such as impaired learning and memory. Pesticide exposure can also damage the kidneys and increase the risk for tumors among children.