PESTICIDES are chemical or biological substances that can exterminate organisms considered pests, and as such they are basically poisons. Their usage is an integral part of modern agriculture. The goal of their use is to increase crop yield and quality. They can be classified as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides, algaecides or other pesticides (e.g., acaricides, molluscicides, bactericides etc.).
The use and distribution of pesticides are regulated in the European Union. The active agents are assessed and licenced on the European Union level, the products on the national level. These licences are reviewed regularly. Based on the results of risk assessments, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) determined the maximum residue levels of pesticides. The EFSA also requires the Member States to monitor these limit values.
Numerous studies have shown a clear association between occupational exposure to pesticides and various health problems. Some pesticides can cause immediate, acute poisoning, in case of inappropriately conducted pesticidal activities, inhalation, intentional or unintentional ingestion (depending on their amount). Therefore, they must be handled with extreme care and in accordance with the instructions.
In most cases, humans are exposed to low concentrations of pesticide residues, but the exposure lasts for a long period of time. The different chemicals can act synergistically, they may enhance each other’s effects. Pesticides can enter the body through the skin (e.g., through contact with domestic pesticides), by inhalation (e.g., spraying), or by ingestion (e.g., food consumption). A considerable proportion of exposure of the public is due to the pesticidal treatment of lawns, gardens, and parks, or the use of insect killers in or around households.
Several studies suggest that the exposure to pesticides is associated with the development of certain types of cancer (e.g., brain-, certain blood cell-, prostate-, ovarian-, kidney-, liver-, and gastro-intestinal cancers). According to previous studies, foetal and childhood exposure increased the risk of leukaemia and brain tumours among children. They can also be connected to other adverse health effects, e.g., the developmental disorders of the nervous system and other organs, low birth weight, premature birth, and foetal death. They can also contribute to reduced fertility, and the development of asthma, allergy, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. The elderly, pregnant women, and children are especially vulnerable. Children are more sensitive, and they can come into contact with these chemicals more easily (e.g., by crawling on the ground or playing in the grass).
Considering their harmful environmental and health effects, reduce the use of pesticides with conscious effort. If you absolutely have to use pesticides, buy only from reliable sources. Pay attention to the dosage instructions and withdrawal period on the label when using pesticides on the vegetables and fruits you grow in our garden. Comply with safety instructions and wear protective clothing if required. Make sure to store pesticides in a safe manner. Leftover pesticides are hazardous waste, treat it accordingly. Try to use biological plant protection in our own garden.
Buy your vegetables and fruits from organic farms if possible. Always wash your vegetables and fruits thoroughly. Don’t consume the skin of treated tropical fruits.
Avoid using herbicides for the maintenance of lawns and flower gardens as these pose unnecessary health risks. Weeds should be removed by hand or using gardening tools and use mulch to keep weeds away. Grass should be cut with lawnmowers or other tools, don’t use so called total herbicides.
Prefer the use of chemical free solutions when protecting your home from pests, especially around little children, the elderly, and pregnant women.