Spraying pesticide can be dangerous to humans, as just about any can of bug killer sold at hardware or home improvement store will attest. Most pesticide brands recommend careful spraying or application methods and contain warnings about use. Large scale spraying that may take place on farms may be dangerous too, as evidenced by numbers of health problems such as the development of cancer in higher rates among farm workers, and among those who live near farms.
What can’t always be determined is the amount of danger spraying a pesticide causes. This is in part why many large farms still utilize these substances to protect crops, and why many home gardeners use them too. However, there is clear evidence that certain pesticides don’t necessarily dissipate. They may remain on the foods long after they’ve been sprayed, and they can pose potential health hazards to the entire community of people and animals.
Many people were alerted to the potential dangers of pesticides when studies on the product DDT (dichlor-diphenyl-trichlorethylene), which was widely used as a pesticide until the 1970s, revealed that this product affected people and animals. For people, DDT could cause increased risk of liver cancer, respiratory problems, damage to the central nervous system, and difficulty with reproduction. Some bird populations were nearly destroyed by the widespread use of this chemical, and in 1972 a number of countries banned its use, though there are still some that use it The chemical was thought safe but evidence found that it contaminated water, could be found in fish that were eaten, and even was present in human breast milk.
Other pesticides used today may be thought safer than DDT, but there are many environmental groups that argue to the contrary and that have significant test data to show effects on humans and their environment. Furthermore, it’s important to understand that even if a pesticide does not have direct effect on a human being, it still may pose danger to humans. When chemicals are designed to reduce the insect population, they may create an environmental problem for all species. Reduced insect populations could lead to reduced animal populations that feed on them, and this can ultimately greatly influence the food chain or the way that an environment works to sustain all species.
Naturally, most farmers are motivated to spray pesticide because it helps to increase quality and quantity of crops, and some pesticides protect human populations by eliminating certain bugs that may pose health hazards. On the other hand, evidence suggests that there is simply not enough known about the many pesticides used and their far-reaching environmental effects. Even safer pesticides used in approved organic applications could have some effect on human, plant or animal populations, and there is much dispute in what really constitutes organic methods of farming.
Another factor that must be weighed is that some people may be much more sensitive to certain chemicals than are others. The issue of whether spraying a pesticide is dangerous to humans can be highly individualized. Some people cannot, for example, live near areas where wide use of pesticides occurs because of environmental illness that makes them very ill when chemicals are used to control pests.
Environmentalists advocate for greatly reducing and/or completely eliminating chemical spraying. Others seek a middle ground, where most pesticide use would be reduced or very strictly controlled. Yet other groups believe that most pesticides used today are safe for humans. However, evidence in this area tends not to always support this belief.