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The Evils of Pesticides
A pesticide is a “chemical preparation for destroying pests, also called a biocide, which is “any chemical substance that destroys life by poisoning.” The definition of poison is “a substance that destroys life or harms health.” Why are pesticides bad?They are synthetic (not natural) chemicals that poison and harm the health of the entire Earth, including humans.
Man vs. Vermin has been a battle from the beginning. History has many references to plagues and insults – even hieroglyphic cave drawings depict frustrations with vermin. Here we are thousands of years and dozens of scientific discoveries later and the battle still rages.
Most pesticides in use today are designed according to nerve gas technology developed during World War II. These synthetic chemicals are neurotoxins that attack the central nervous system and affect internal communication with the brain.
Some pesticides affect reproduction, others affect the ability to feed, but the most common are those that affect voluntary and involuntary movements. The scary fact about these man-made toxins is that because they are not natural, they persist – in our bodies and in our water, and they accumulate as you go up the food chain.
Swiss chemist Paul Mueller discovered DDT for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1948. DDT enjoyed widespread use until the truth was known. The deadly effects of DDT were accumulating to the point where many species were on the brink of extinction, most notably our national symbol, the Bald Eagle. So in 1972, DDT was banned in the United States. But was the danger gone? It’s not even close.
Research into new synthetic pesticides aims to provide faster results, greater durability (remains to continue killing pests) and consequently higher levels of toxicity. New chemical poisons are in demand because pesticides are losing their effectiveness due to pesticide resistance – a fascinating biological phenomenon. When a pest population is exposed to a pesticide, a certain percentage will survive. When they reproduce, they pass this immunity on to their offspring. As pests often have multiple generations in a short period of time, eventually the entire population becomes immune and the pesticide once used for control is now useless.
The solution has been to alternate different toxic synthetic chemicals with more frequent applications, but the same Pesticide Resistance occurs. Now these pests are resistant to multiple pesticides and are therefore even more difficult to control. No matter how lethal the dosage or mode of action, pesticide resistance will always occur when synthetic pesticides are used. Therefore, we have created super parasites that are immune to controls, but bioaccumulate the poisons used to combat them.
The United Nations adopted an environmental treaty known as the Stockholm Convention that calls for global action to eliminate the planet’s 21 deadliest chemicals defined as “chemicals that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment”. One of these poisons is Lindane. Inexplicably, some chemicals on this most toxic list have “exemptions,” and the exemption for Lindane says: Human health drug for the control of lice. So one of the most dangerous chemicals on the planet is OK to spread all over my child’s head?
Where is our protection? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the government agency charged with protecting us and our environment, yet they receive no government funding. What? Instead, EPA’s 17,000 employees are funded by the big chemical companies whose products they want EPA to register. How’s that for the Fox that guards the Hen?
Many people mistakenly believe that if a product is EPA registered, then it is safe. This is absolutely false. The ONLY products registered by the EPA are those whose active ingredients are known poisons, toxins, or carcinogens. If a product is safe, it is excluded from registration. Make no mistake about it – if a product has an EPA registration number, it’s dangerous.
Chemical companies pay the EPA hundreds of thousands of dollars per product to set maximum acceptable levels of exposure to the toxic active ingredient. Exposure levels are based on a 180-pound male. These are upper limit safe exposure levels – meaning that anything above this level can cause harm. Therefore, the exposure of a developing young child is not taken into account, but is aggregated to the safe exposure levels of adults.
Here’s the scariest part of all – inert, other or inactive ingredients listed on a label are not controlled or even documented. They are considered “trade secrets” and no one has any idea what they are used for. These ingredients can be much more dangerous than the active ingredients! They change because of market conditions, so if you’ve been using Frontline on your dog for years and after one treatment he suddenly gets chemical burns, has trouble breathing, has seizures or even dies – everyone is confused – how can that be? It is due to the “other” ingredients which may have been $0.02 per barrel cheaper at manufacture.
What kind of effects do pesticides have on us today? This is simple – disease.
Pesticides can affect the endocrine system which is reproduction. Breast and prostate cancer diagnoses have increased. Pesticides can affect the gastrointestinal system. Colon cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and irritable bowel syndrome have increased. Pesticides most often affect the brain function of victims. Diagnoses of autism (500% increase), ADHD (381% increase) and Alzheimer’s (300% increase) have skyrocketed in recent decades. Chemical companies deny these claims, saying they are due to an aging population, a larger population, therefore more cases and more thorough diagnostic tools. However, science has proven otherwise. The EPA has reported a direct link between ADHD and pesticides, and the US Department of Defense has admitted that Gulf War Syndrome is attributable to chemicals, including pesticide exposure. As research is funded by the manufacturers, little research has been done on the potential harm of long-term, cumulative effects of pesticides, as it may reveal negative truths.
The reason we get disease from pesticides is because they can’t be metabolized – they persist in our tissue. Synthetic pesticides to the human body are like plastic in a landfill – they never break down. They bio-accumulate in our tissue, so we continually increase our own level of toxicity. We inhale, absorb, and ingest pesticides in many forms from the food we eat, the products we use, and the odorless, tasteless fumes of killer chemicals applied in our schools, businesses, restaurants, grocery stores—even hospitals. Back to the example of using Lindane to treat lice, which is one of the deadliest substances found on Earth that gets wedged into the scalp which is the skin (the largest organ in the body), full of pores and hair shaft openings for a toxic chemical enters the body…and stays in the body.
The use of natural, organic or green pest control has been dismissed as nothing more than good intentions and that the stronger the chemical & the more frequent the application, the better. This is especially true for those in the pesticide manufacturing or application business. Acknowledging that a natural product is capable is directly at odds with the goal of selling synthetic chemicals for profit. And those profits are huge.
The pest control services industry is a $6.5 billion a year industry (2008) in the United States and is expected to double in size by 2015. This is impressive until compared to the agrochemical manufacturers – those who produce these pesticides are 34 billion dollars a year industry. The top six producers in order are Bayer, Syngenta, BASF, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto and DuPont and the last three are all US holding companies. Add these together and more than $40 billion in pesticide revenue is used in our world every year.
As the awareness of being “green”, “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” grows, many people deserve praise for their role in caring for the Earth. However, those who are just beginning their consciousness are being taken advantage of by those looking for healthy profits. For example, the next time you’re at the grocery store, check out the pest repellants. So much of the label is in green with pictures of happy children with small pets or healthy couples hiking in Nature. The words ‘safe’, ‘green’ and ‘natural’ dominate and the artwork has been simplified more as if to suggest simpler products. Yeah right. Perception is reality, so consumers are tricked into thinking they are making wise, environmentally responsible choices. Look at the labels and you’ll find the EPA registration number, the small percentage of active (or deadly poison) ingredient, and the large percentage of “other,” “inert” or “inert” ingredients that are the great toxic unknown.
What is known is that pesticides are poisons that bioaccumulate in living tissues. Due to pesticide resistance, pests become immune, so pesticides must become stronger and increase concentrations in our bodies. The EPA registration process is intended to prevent exceeding tolerable levels of toxins as opposed to encouraging safe choices. Manufacturers are allowed to use whatever inactive ingredients they choose without instruction or supervision. Pesticides affect parasite reproduction, the gastrointestinal and nervous systems of parasites, and these target areas have seen a rapid increase in human disease in recent decades. Large agrochemical manufacturers and exterminators enjoy large revenues and profits based on the sale and application of toxins. Their heavy lobbying and advertising presence continues to extol the virtues of their synthetic chemicals, as well as dismissing real natural products as ineffective and naive.
There is choices. Natural options that work, are not poisons, do not cause disease and pests cannot become resistant. Nature has proven far superior to man’s attempt to control it and to assume that man can create something better is arrogance at its highest level.
Educate, inform and speak up. Insist that your child’s school does not use conventional toxic pesticides. Require that your food sources are organic and that the pest control company uses a true “green” product. Definitely make changes in your home to control pests safely and with better results. At the very least, learn the extermination calendar in the areas where you live and work just to prove to yourself how widespread the evils of pesticides are in your everyday life. Slowly poisoning ourselves and the environment is a greed fueled disaster and it is up to humans to stop the runaway train.
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