Socioeconomic Impacts of Pesticide


Pesticides work in ways that most people don't notice or even think about on a daily basis. The contributions to society include protecting property, preventing disease, improving quality of life, and public health. Some of the most dangerous and deadly diseases in the history of mankind were transmitted by invasive pests (Sissell 1998) The term "pesticide" includes insecticides, fungicides, rodenticides, growth regulators, herbicides, or products that kill snails and slugs (Dreistadt 2004). To sum it up it limits or stops the growth of pests. Pesticides keep poisonous and allergen-producing weeds at bay around homes and businesses. Both grocery stores and farming processes rely greatly on pesticides to bring quality food products to consumers. Even the water that comes out of faucets and drinking fountains can be polluted by pests and is often treated with pesticides. In addition pesticides save lives by eliminating plants and bushes that can grow to obstruct the views of warning signs on the road. They can hinder the ability to drive safely. Then there's the economic benefit of saving millions of dollars in repair due to cracked concrete and asphalt. Electric and utility companies rely on pesticides to control plants and weeds on access roads, around power stations, and keep power lines safe from obstructions. It also terminates rats and other pests that invade millions of homes and buildings across the world each year. In order to protect homes and buildings, most lumber and some other building materials are treated with pesticides to keep damage to a minimum. Termites attack more than six hundred thousand homes each year which is accountable for $1.5 billion in property destruction (Dreistadt 2004). Most Americans are allergic to cockroach feces and their filth. Some scientific studies have linked the presence of cockroach allergens during childhood development to asthma; roaches transmit diarrhea, food poisoning and dysentery among other diseases. Home and business owners make large investments on ornamental plants and natural areas. Pesticides keep these areas free from pest invasion and destruction (Sissell 1998). Even museums and historical societies use pesticides to protect valuable pieces of history, keeping rats, roaches, bacteria and more from damaging items of importance. Ecosystems can also benefit by controlling aquatic weeds that can grow out of control, taking over natural habitat. The weeds can alter ecosystems and kill fish and other aquatic animal. Waterway safety, water quality and property values are all drastically reduced if invasive weed populations grow out of control (Sissell 1998). On top of property protection pesticides promote specialization by allowing a very small percentage of the population to produce more than enough food resources for the rest of us (Sissell 1998).

Pesticides are not just thrown onto the market; they go through a long and extensive testing process. Products must be registered by the Environmental Protection Agency Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) which requires EPA review of all pesticide products. The EPA investigates potential risks for plants, humans, pets, the environment and more EPA Registration Process takes 8 to 10 years for development and testing process of each new pesticide. This cost $150 to $185 million for testing, evaluation, EPA registration, and label approval; only 1 in 140,000 of potential products successfully makes it from the lab to the market. When used according to label directions, pesticides do not pose a threat to people or the environment. The availability of pesticides provides the freedom and flexibility to choose the products that are right to do the job at hand (Sissell 1998).

Argument against

Some of the main points against the use of pesticides are childhood exposure, neurodevelopment, effects on the environment, and economic impacts. All of these negative impacts are caused by pesticides, but are preventable with proper use. Childhood exposure can lead to stunted growth and neurodevelopment can be negated with taking the proper preventative measures when applying pesticides and following the instructions on the label. This may include wearing long sleeves, eye wear, pants, gloves, rubber boots and long sleeve shirts (Johnson 1997).

The next point the opposing side takes is the effects on wildlife. Overuse of pesticide can cause endocrine problem and cause biomagnifications in wildlife (Wilen 2006). Misuse can also affect the biosphere by effecting water quality, leading to eutrophication due to excess nitrogen. This can also be limited with proper use. A pesticide's mobility depends on its water solubility, solubility in fat, absorption to soil, and its tendency to become a vapor. Pesticides that strongly absorb to soil are not very mobile in water that infiltrates toward groundwater, or water that runs off into surface water, such as a ponds, lakes, or streams (Wilen 2006). According to the EPA this information is on the product label and is on a safety sheet. If this is followed correctly the effects on wildlife should be limited.

The final point against pesticide use is economic impacts. The key points are the increase cost of worker safety, re-entry regulations, cost of poisonings, lost grower revenue, and loss of crops despite the use of pesticides. Much like human health risk and environmental damage, using pesticides correctly can limit these issues. Pests and diseases can dramatically reduce food crop yields or render them uneatable. Using pesticides allows us to control pests and diseases on developing food and also during storage. By protecting crops as they grow and during storage, pesticides help ensure a high quality and quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables which keeps the cost of them at affordable prices for consumers. With proper use the costs are limited and may be outweighed by protecting our crops (Sissell 1998).

Pesticides are essential to meet the nation's needs for food and wood products, to protect human health and manage natural resources. Chemical pesticides must be used wisely, safely, and in addition with other effective product protection practices. Also they must be used only within limits of improving human health, food safety, and environmental quality. An IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach using pesticides where necessary is the best way to solve pest problems. It coordinates the use of pest biology, environmental information and available technology to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means, while posing the least possible risk to people, property, resources and the environment.

Dreistadt, S. H. 2004. Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs. Oakland: Univ. Calif. Div. Agric. Nat. Res. Publ. 3359.

Johnson B.T, October 1997University of California at Davis, Environmental Toxicology Department

Wilen, C. A., et al. 2006. Pest Note: Hiring a Pest Control Company. Oakland: Univ. Calif. Div. Agric. Nat. Res. Publ. 74125.

Sissell Kara. (1998,January). EPA moves pesticide registration.Chemical Week,160(3),45. Retrieved March 1, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID:25517728).

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