What Are Pesticides?

What Are Pesticides?

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of inactive and active ingredients used to prevent, repel, or kill an organism that we consider undesirable. They are poisons used to target plants, insects, rodents, disease and fungi. The amount and variety of pesticides used today is 600% more than what we used ten years ago. Yet the pesticides we use still have components that were first developed for chemical warfare in World War Two and Vietnam.

Enormous amounts of pesticides are used on lawns in an attempt to maintain the monoculture environment promoted by the pesticide industry. Canadians believe that their lawns have to be perfect and that pesticide application is the only means of reaching that perfection. Two-thirds of Canadians use pesticides on their lawns, spreading over 1.3 million kilograms, amounting to over 21 million dollars in sales per year in the urban sector alone.

The Pesticide Treadmill:

Once you begin to apply pesticides, your soil becomes conditioned and your lawn becomes dependent on chemical treatments. Meanwhile, beneficial organisms are killed off and the pesticide-resistant insects and weeds breed to produce pests with an ever-increasing immunity. Therefore by the end of the day you require even more pesticides to achieve the same outcome as before.

What Happens To Pesticides After Use?

Only 5% of pesticides actually reach their target pest; the rest are lost to the environment through drift and runoff. Pesticides may cycle through the environment via the air, soil, water and groundwater. Once in the environment certain pesticides may break down, while others transform into even more dangerous by-products. Some pesticides are fat-soluble and water insoluble; therefore they resist degradation and biocumulate in our tissues and biomagnify throughout the food web. These pesticides that accumulate in our tissues via respiration, absorption and ingestion are doomed to remain there.

Simply washing food off to remove all the pesticides won’t work. Did you know that the average apple, after being cored and washed still has 4 pesticide residues, and the average peach caries with it a whopping 31?

Are Pesticides Safe?

Because a pesticide is registered doesn’t mean it is safe. The current risk assessment done by our government is questionable. There are numerous variables not considered when registering a certain pesticide. For instance the risks a pesticide may pose to the elderly or to children are not assessed. Neither are the effects to multiple exposure or the combination of various pesticides tested. Along with this, the long-term effects to chronic exposure remain to be examined. Finally, some pesticide companies have been found falsifying their results in order to get their pesticide registered. Simply put, there are constraints to our current scientific methods and understanding that inhibit our ability to truly view a pesticide as safe.

By their very nature pesticides put people and animals at risk. Pesticides are poisons. Currently there are over 7000 pesticide products registered. Of the 500 active ingredients found in these products, 300 were approved before 1981, 150 prior to 1960. Because of our use of pesticides, each year over 3 million people are severely sickened, and 220 000 die due to acute and chronic exposures.

Protect Our Wildlife:

Most pesticides are not species-specific; hence they affect all surrounding wildlife. Ultimately pesticides reduce the abundance of many plants, a fact which subsequently decreases the diversity of the insects that depend on them, in turn reducing the diversity of those that feed on these insects, and so on. The circle of life is obviously weakened through the application of pesticides. The effects a pesticide may have are found not just near the original source of application. Pesticides can be found affecting organisms hundreds to thousands of kilometres away. Chemical pesticides have been found softening the eggs of birds, in the fat of polar bears and in the blubber of whales.

We can see the horrible effects of pesticides every day. Have you ever questioned how that dead bird got on your lawn? Many birds die every year because they mistake granular insecticides as a form of dietary grit, a mistake that often leads to instant death for that misfortunate bird. Certain pesticides have also brought many species to near-extinction, including the burrowing owl from Alberta.

When pesticides enter our environment, it costs all of us. After periods of rain pesticides are often found far exceeding our established water-quality objectives. Pesticide-contaminated drinking water is a real problem and very costly to repair.

Protect Our Children:

Our children are at a greater risk than adults to pesticide applications. Their size, habits, and underdeveloped immune systems insure their sensitivity to the toxic effects that a pesticide may produce. Some symptoms due to acute exposure are as follows: headaches, tiredness, dizziness, stomach cramps, nausea, and skin or eye irritation. As if this isn’t enough, studies have found that certain pesticides, through chronic exposure, lead to behavioural changes, seizures, comas, brain damage, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and cancer. In fact there has been a 25% increase in child cancers over the past 25 years, coinciding with the increased use of pesticides.

Protect Yourself:

You may have found yourself sick after pesticide use. You may have even exhibited such symptoms as: headaches, skin or eye irritation, fever, increased hart rate, nausea or even numbness. Through cell culture studies, laboratory animal testing, and human epidemiological investigations scientists have also found that chronic exposures to pesticides may lead to respiratory damage, reproductive deficiencies, neurological disabilities, comprised immune systems, endocrine impairments, and numerous forms of cancer.