Over 1 billion pounds of synthetic pesticides are used worldwide every year. Over 95% of these end up somewhere other than their target destination—such as in oceans, forests, our drinking water, our food, our homes, pets, children, even breast milk. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a study of 9,282 people throughout the U.S. and found pesticides in 100% of those tested: The average person was found to have 13 out of 23 common pesticides in their bloodstream or urine.
But what can homeowners do to help minimize the impact of these pesticides? It turns out, a lot. The average homeowner uses ten times more pesticides per acre than farmers use on industrial farmland. Of the 30 most common lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer, 13 are linked with birth defects, 26 with liver and kidney damage, 13 with neurological damage, and 11 with disruption of human hormones. Furthermore, 17 of these are commonly found in groundwater, 23 in our drinking water, 24 are toxic to aquatic life such as fish, 11 are fatal to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds. (At this very moment, the makers of Roundup—the most used pesticide in the world—are facing lawsuits from thousands of cancer-sufferers claiming Roundup caused their disease).
So, in many ways, it’s in the hands of average homeowners like us to start minimizing the risks associated with pesticide use by searching for safer alternatives. Not convinced? Here are 8 reasons why you should stop using synthetic pesticides today.
Washing vegetables and fruit removes all those dangerous pesticides, right? Wrong: the USDA reports that even after peeling and rinsing, 60% of all produce still contains at least one harmful pesticide. What can you do? Purchasing only organic produce is one option; growing your own, and using only non-toxic, outdoor pesticides on your garden, is another.
People are “not aware of the hazards that the unthinking use of pesticides poses to their children,” says Philip Landrigan, dean for global health and professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Because of their size and because they’re in the midst of development, children are especially at risk when it comes to toxic pesticides. When you consider how often children play in the yard, and how often they place their hands into their mouths, it becomes obvious why they’re directly in harm’s way.
“They take into their bodies more of the pesticides that are in the food, water and air,” Landrigan continues; their “delicate developmental processes are easily disrupted by very small doses of toxic chemicals that would be virtually harmless for an adult.”
Frighteningly, studies indicate that children with parents who use chemical-based pesticides are at higher risk of several types of childhood cancer, brain damage, lower IQs, and other health effects. Sources have also proven that measurable levels of pesticides are prevalent on household flooring. So, when you note that infants are already at high risk of pesticidal side effects due to their weight, the fact they’re often found crawling on floors should set off alarms in every parents’ mind.
Like children, pets are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides (which includes exposure via Flea Collars, too). Your pets not only live and play in your yard, they sometimes eat its grass, insects and rodents, too.
One study conducted by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University found that dogs exposed to lawn pesticides had up to a 70% higher chance of contracting potentially fatal canine malignant lymphoma. Another study concluded that bladder cancer was also associated with lawns treated with inorganic pesticides, with even indirect exposure from adjacent lawns significantly raising your pet’s risk of getting this extremely painful cancer.
If you think that avoiding your lawn immediately after treatment keeps you out of harm’s way, think again. Gary Ginsberg, a public health toxicologist and assistant clinical professor at the University of Connecticut says, “there’s some inevitable transfer into the home or the neighbor’s home from use on the lawn.”
Whether through windows or vents, or transferred via shoes or your pet’s paws, pesticide residues almost always find their way into your home. One study found that a week after treatment, outdoor pesticides could still be detected on all indoor surfaces: Including kitchen countertops, tabletops and flooring.
It’s estimated that exposure to chemical pesticides (along w/ other endocrine disruptors found in plastic, makeup, detergents and other packaging) costs the U.S. over 340 billion dollars annually in health care costs and subsequent lost wages. Endocrine disruptors interfere with proper human hormone function, and are linked with health problems ranging from infertility and obesity, to brain development and diabetes.
The financial toll of these effects is said to represent at least 2% of our country’s entire gross domestic product or GDP. The same study discovered that pesticide exposure alone causes more than 1.8 million lost IQ points and 7,500 intellectual disabilities each year—the annual cost of which is roughly $45 billion.
Because of wind, runoff, overspray, and their ability to leach into soil, chemical pesticides regularly pollute the environment, ending up in soil, water and other delicate ecosystems. How extensive is pesticidal pollution? In a study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, pesticides were found to contaminate every stream in the United States, and over 90% of all wells tested. These toxins were not limited to groundwater, they were also found in rainwater and fog, too.
Another study conducted in Australia—which tested areas directly bordering the Great Barrier Reef—found that pesticides were detected in 90% of all samples the Australian scientists collected. When chemicals from pesticides enter an ecosystem, they disrupt normal biological processes and therefore decrease overall biodiversity, greatly limiting the number of surviving species. Sadly, this effect can persist for long periods of time, as many pesticides are also soil contaminates—meaning these toxins can stay active in the soil for decades.
Pesticides are especially harmful to marine life and birds. By the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service’s own estimation, more than 72 million birds die in the U.S. each year as a result of pesticide use. But because many pesticides are bioaccumulative—meaning toxic levels can slowly build up within an organism over time—they have the potential to disrupt entire food chains, of which birds and fish represent only a small part.
In truth, pesticidal contamination has the potential to affect nearly every living organism on the planet, if not directly then indirectly through ecosystem damage. One particularly chilling example can be found in bees, which are one of the most integral organisms to survival on our planet. Largely due to the widespread use of toxic pesticides, the world’s bee populations have been falling drastically in what scientists call colony collapse disorder. And while recent restrictions in pesticide use have helped restore their numbers, pesticides continue to threaten the health of bees worldwide.
If you’re among the millions of people that use synthetic pesticides in and around your home, your health is at risk. The following conditions have all been linked to pesticide exposure:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Non-vascular dementia
- Breast cancer
- Female infertility
- Male infertility
- Hearing loss
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Type 2 diabetes