The use of pesticides comes with inherent risk, as their main function is to control or kill pests who pose a danger to crops, humans or other living things. There is no such thing as a “safe” pesticide. Even a low risk chemical can pose some danger if used incorrectly or at higher than recommended doses.
The type of pesticide plays a huge role in determining health effects. For example, organophosphates and carbamates affect the nervous system while pyrethroids can impact the endocrine system. Most pesticides can cause skin and eye irritation. Pregnant women, children, and the elderly may be more susceptible to health risks. People who live and work in or near agricultural communities are also more at risk.
Laboratory studies have identified some association between pesticide exposure and certain cancers, neurological disorders, birth defects, respiratory issues, and other health effects. Pesticide exposure can occur at work, at home, at school or by consuming foods.
Minimizing health risks starts with education, especially if you plan to use pesticide products in and around your home. Product labels will have information as to the toxicity of active ingredients. “Caution” is used to indicate low toxicity, “warning” indicates medium toxicity, and “danger” represents high toxicity. It’s also important to read instructions carefully and use the instructed amount. Using more product than recommended can be dangerous.
Residential pesticide products must be handled with as much care as possible. Ensure pets and children are out of the area before mixing and applying. Make sure toys and other personal items are stored to avoid contamination. If using indoors, make sure the area is well ventilated. Avoid windy conditions and make sure doors, windows, and other openings to your home are closed when applying outdoors.
Pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables are of great concern to families, especially those with young children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency establishes maximum safe levels of pesticide residue. The EPA says most foods are well below the tolerance level by the time it reaches the grocery store and further decreases after washing. Proper produce washing and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can limit overall consumption of pesticide residue. The EPA says the health benefits of eating fresh produce outweigh the risks of consuming pesticide residue.
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