Effects of Pesticides on Human Health

National Food Security Mission

Pesticides are substances that comprise chemicals, which are used to kill or destroy pests. Pests are organisms that can be an animal or insect, fungus, or other living things harmful to plants. Plants get sprayed with pesticides, so they are protected from being destroyed or poisoned by pests. 

How are humans exposed to pesticides?

  • People who work on farms and work with pesticides.
  • People who live around areas where pesticides are used frequently.
  • Pesticides are sprayed almost in every vegetable or fruit grown on farms, and we consume pesticides when we consume those foods. 

Types of Pesticides:

There are different types of pesticides based on their use.

  • Insecticides are used for insects.
  • Herbicides are used for plants.
  • Fungicides are used for fungi.
  • Bactericides are used for bacteria. 

How are pesticides harmful to human health?

Pesticides can be very harmful to human health. The chemicals in the pesticides can cause short-term or long-term health effects for humans.

Short-term effects are called the “acute” effects. The acute effects can sometimes occur immediately. The short-term or acute effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Itching of the skin
  • Rashes
  • Blisters
  • Irritation of the nose, throat or tongue
  • Colds/Flu

Long-term effects are called the “chronic health effects”. Chronic health effects of pesticides include:

  • Tumours
  • Cancer
  • Damage to the brain or nervous system
  • Infertility
  • Damage to certain organs of the body such as kidneys, lungs or liver.

The symptoms of health effects caused by pesticides are similar to symptoms of other diseases for which it isn’t easy to diagnose whether the pesticide causes it. However, the risk of becoming more prone to certain diseases caused by pesticides is more likely to children, infants, pregnant women, and individuals with any health issue. Infants and the child inside their mother’s womb are more likely to develop a disease as it is their growth and development time. Other than physical disorders, children may develop any cognitive disability or mental disorder because of pesticides. It is difficult to diagnose a psychological disorder in young children, which may cause a long-term effect on the child as they grow up. However, this does not decrease the possibility of other individuals developing a disease caused by pesticides. Diagnosis may be difficult, as it does not have any distinct symptoms. In addition, the toxicity of the chemicals cannot be tested or checked when consumed, making it difficult to identify the severity of the reaction it may cause in an individual.

It is advised to buy organic products, especially for young children, pregnant women, and individuals with any physical disorder because they are more vulnerable to develop a disease. It might be difficult to find pure and organic products. Also, it might be slightly expensive but can help in preventing certain diseases.