Are we poisoning ourselves?

Rapid increase in human population has employed increased issues of hunger, poverty, food security, hygiene and health issues. Population explosion has also led the way towards frequent use of insecticides and pesticides following repercussions in the form of damaging human and animal health as well as its destructive effects on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem especially in third world countries. It is now clearly indicated by the recent reports that these poisons have become a part of food chain including hazardous residues of chemicals in our food. Also it depends on the behaviour of the pesticides in air and the transfer of these poisons in the soil. On one side we have inadequate food to fulfill needs of our population and on the other hand we are taking adulterated and toxic food. Various pesticides which are banned in developed countries are being dumped in developing countries to get exorbitant gains. Multinational companies from developed countries have dumped these pesticides in developing countries which are their colonial counterparts and where farmers are poor and illiterate. While itself these pesticides are banned in countries like USA. Isnt it like we are poisoning ourselves?

The need of the hour is to take this issue seriously and to adopt such strategies that use of these hazardous chemicals can be limited. This include selection of low toxicity pesticides, use of IPM techniques (integrated pest management), use of high quality seed, proper and timely cultivation, implanting waste water treatment plants to reduce toxicity of disposed water and last but not least to aware farmers about the hazards of pesticides are certain practical measures to mitigate the effect of these chemicals in humans, animals, for ecosystem and for environment.


A recent investigation on the influence of insecticides and pesticides has revealed that pesticides treated food intake results in more poisoning of human body that is about 103 to 105 times more dangerous than being absorbed through drinking water or inhalation. Millions of tons of contaminated water from industrial effluent is being dumped in sewerage and ultimately poisoning our water bodies as well. This water is containing chemicals and heavy metals which become part of living body and ultimately include in our food chain. Water coming from households is poisoning our biosphere, and also terrestrial and aquatic environment.


The pesticides like organophosphates and carbamates are cause of various diseases like nausea, diarrhea, decrease in blood pressure, increased salivation and perspiration, narrowing of the pupils, muscle weakness, and fatigue. Similarly, pyrethroids can cause aggressiveness, in-coordination, whole-body tremors, hyper-excitation, may engender cancer, cause irregualtions in the levels of reproductive hormones. Herbicides are not as much health hazardous as insecticides and pesticides as they hinder the proper functioning of the plant hormones but do not effect on animals directly. However when these herbicides are contaminated with dioxin (TCDD) or mixed along with 2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T then these cause birth defects and this mixture is known as orange mixture which is being used by military personnel and some others. Some of the herbicides are adversely affecting biodiversity like aquatic and wildlife animals.


Pesticide exposure can cause a range of neurological health effects such as memory loss, loss of coordination, reduced speed of response to stimuli, reduced visual ability, altered or uncontrollable mood and general behavior, and reduced motor skills. These symptoms are often very subtle and may not be recognized by the medical community as a clinical effect. Other possible health effects include asthma, allergies, and hypersensitivity, and pesticide exposure is also linked with cancer, hormone disruption, and problems with reproduction and fetal development. Childrens are more exposed to danger because they are developing and also depositing more poison in their body as compared to adults.


There is need for better understanding of pesticide transfer to food and to determine its eco-toxic level. Furthermore following strategies can be taken into account like to provide safety measures for the applicators, to implant industrial water treatment plants for making them less toxic, an increased availability of ecosystem evaluations, especially for terrestrial ecosystems, acceptable risk assessment of pesticides for human and percentage of affected or disappeared species for ecosystems. As well as, use of eco-friendly strategies in controlling insect pests, like use of plant extracts, green manuring, adopting proper cultural practices, Selection of low toxicity pesticides, use of IPM techniques (integrated pest management), and last is to develop awareness among farmers community. However, the extent of the real problem is still need determine. There are certain pitfalls in having true picture about the story.


Keeping in view the toxicity levels of hazardous chemicals and pesticides, it is necessary to culminate the excessive use of these pesticides. These are sprayed frequently on crops to protect them from insect pests and diseases and to get ultimate high yields. It is widely used in third world countries where farmers are poor and illiterate. In the present study an overview has been provided about the destructive environmental impacts of these pesticides. The eco-toxicity of these chemicals reveals that these are not only speculative for the humans (adversely affecting many physical and physiological processes of human) but also for the biodiversity and ecosystem. It is really like “we are poisoning ourselves and our future generation”.

The author is M.Sc. (Hons.) from the Department of Plant Pathology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad. She can be reached at <>

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