Chemicals Found in Pesticides
Although some of the ingredients in pesticides, such as Pyrethroids, are naturally occurring, they still have some harmful effects on the human body, the environment, and animals. Some of the chemicals below take years to break down, which makes them even more dangerous.
Below are some of the most common pesticide ingredients and their effects.
DDT was been used since 1874. Although it was canceled in the US, some companies still produce insecticides with it outside the US. When used on insects, it interferes with the nervous system, disturbing how the insects deliver nerve impulses. DDT is not easily absorbed through the skin of humans, but it absorbs fast through the exoskeleton of insects. When laboratory animals are exposed to DDT, they develop tremors, convulsions, and incoordination. When animals ingest fatal doses of DDT, they develop liver damage. If a person is exposed to it, either while manufacturing or spraying, the DDT might cause dizziness, nausea, confusion, headache, lethargy, incoordination, fatigue, tremors, and a burning sensation in the mouth. Tests on rats show that DDT can cause infertility. Worse yet, DDT can increase mortality rates in mice. In birds, DDT causes the eggshells to thin. There are no research results that show that it causes infertility in human beings. However, the chemical can cause or increase the risk of liver tumors. However, the EPA is yet to categorize it as a carcinogenic substance.
Glyphosate is common as a herbicide. When applied on the surface of leaves, it interferes with the production of enzymes needed for plant growth. It is non-selective in that it kills all plants it comes in contact with. To do that, the substance stops the Shikimic acid pathway, which is important in the growth of plants and some microorganisms. Human beings can get Glyphosate through the mouth or through the skin. Pure Glyphosate is less toxic, but other products add to Glyphosate to make it better at penetrating into plants, making it highly toxic. Animals exposed to Glyphosate briefly will show signs such as vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, sleepiness, and drooling. WHO does not rate the substance as carcinogenic, from the studies held in different countries. EPA also does not rate it as carcinogenic.
Roundup is glyphosate-based. Roundup is a brand name for a product containing glyphosate. You can use Roundup to kill weeds in your yard or kill insects at home in your garden. However, Roundup has the same health effects observed in Glyphosate. Although WHO did not find Roundup carcinogenic when it tested the ingredients, the short term effects of Glyphosate such as nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite should make you avoid the substance. What makes it dangerous are the products added to it to make it effective as a herbicide. In severe cases, this substance can kill human cells as it does in insects. In embryos, it is more dangerous as it can affect an unborn baby by killing its cells.
Methylene Chloride is available as a colorless liquid that may seem less dangerous. It comes with a sweet and mild odor and doesn’t occur naturally. Methylene Chloride affects the liver and nervous system. Once ingested, it goes through the liver, and some might go through the kidney. Besides being used as a pesticide, it is also used as a solvent and paint stripper. Some manufacturers also use it to make photographic film. EPA notes that Methylene Chloride is likely to be carcinogenic as it has the same substances such as Chlordane and Pyrethroids.
Atrazine doesn’t occur naturally. When pure, it is a white odorless powder. Atrazine is used to kill weed, but EPA has restricted its use in the US such that only trained people can spray it. Both EPA and IARC have not evaluated Atrazine or classified it as a carcinogen. When ingested or inhaled, it affects developing organs, hormonal glands, and can cause infertility. Atrazine effects start with mild skin irritation and continue to abdominal pain, eye irritation, and end up with more health complications. When exposed to Atrazine for a long time, one can develop chronic poisoning, which can result to cancer and other complications.
Paraquat is highly toxic to humans and other mammals if ingested. Inside the body, it causes respiratory issues. In California, children ingested Paraquat and other insecticides stored in unlabeled soda bottles, which resulted in so many deaths. More than 1,400 children were affected by the pesticides, with most of them dying. EPA notes that a single drop of Paraquat ingested can lead to death. Long term effects of the substance include possible cancer and effects on the respiratory system. You can inhale, ingest, or get Paraquat through skin contact. Whichever way you get it, it is highly poisonous. EPA has restricted the use of the substance, but some people still use Paraquat.
Chlorpyrifos controls mosquitoes, roundworms, and termites. When ingested, it blocks the production of enzymes, making it challenging for insects to send nerve impulses. In humans, animals, and pets, Chlorpyrifos affects the nervous system too. Humans can experience headaches, blurred vision, convulsions, tremors, and weakness from exposure. When it gets into the body, it binds to the enzymes and might cause permanent disruption of the nervous system. In children, Chlorpyrifos can cause changes in social behavior and developmental challenges.
Chlordane was canceled in the US after realizing that it causes cancer and breaks down slowly. When ingested, Chlordane affects the nervous system by blocking nervous impulses and enzymes, leading to Chlordane induced overstimulation. In animals, Chlordane absorbs through the skin, causing skin and eye irritation. If inhaled, it can result in nausea, headaches, vomiting, poor balance, tremors, and convulsions. Chlordane stays in the fat where it might cause further damage. It causes fertility and mating issues in rats injected with high doses of it. According to the EPA, Chlordane is a probable carcinogen.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls occurs as a mixture of 209 compounds. It might occur as an oily liquid, vapor, or as a solid. Besides their use as pesticides, Polychlorinated Biphenyls have been used as coolants and lubricants. When build up in the environment, they cause harmful Polychlorinated Biphenyls side effects. Electrical devices might have Polychlorinated Biphenyls capacitors, which might lead to further health effects. In humans, the substances affect the immune system, and might also cause nervous system issues. According to EPA, IARC, and NTP, Polychlorinated Biphenyls are carcinogenic.
Pentachlorophenol doesn’t occur naturally. When pure, it occurs as a colorless crystal, while the impure form appears in hazardous waste sites. For a long time, Pentachlorophenol was used to make pesticides, but was since stopped due to probable health effects. Besides its use as a pesticide, Pentachlorophenol also makes wood preservatives. When ingested or inhaled, it affects organs in their developmental stages. It also affects hormones and hormonal glands, and might even cause reproductive problems. It is considered carcinogenic by EPA and IARC.
Dieldrin has the same structure as Aldrin. Aldrin will break into Dieldrin when in the body, conveying with the breakdown, the dangers of Dieldrin. Pure Dieldrin appears as a white powder while impure form occurs as a tan substance. Although it is not classified as a carcinogen, EPA banned its use, thanks to its probable effects on the environment and the likelihood that it will cause human health issues. When ingested or inhaled, it affects organs that are still developing. It can also affect the liver, hormones, immune system, and the nervous system. Exposure to Dieldrin for a long time can cause more effects, but more research is needed.
Endosulfan appears as a cream and brownish colored solid. It might appear as crystals, and sometimes as flakes. Although Endosulfan smells turpentine, you will not get any fire from it. It is not a natural substance as manufacturers make it in the lab. In humans and animals, it affects the liver, the immune system, and the nervous system. It also affects enzymes, which makes it dangerous to human beings. Because the liver excretes from Endosulfan, there is likelihood that it affects the liver too, but there is no research showing that. The EPA has not evaluated Endosulfan to see whether it causes cancer or any other complications.
Hexachlorobenzene was widely used to protect plants against fungus, but was banned in the US. Hexachlorobenzene appears as white crystals. The chemical, does not occur naturally. When inhaled, ingested, or it gets in through the skin, Hexachlorobenzene affects animals during the development stages. It is, therefore, more dangerous to children. In animals, it affects the liver and the reproductive system. The EPA and IARC consider Hexachlorobenzene a possible carcinogen to humans.
Toxaphene is considered carcinogenic. In the 1970s, Toxaphene was the most used insecticide in the US, but EPA canceled its use. To get Toxaphene, manufacturers react chlorine with camphene. When inhaled, Toxaphene affects the liver and the hormonal glands. The high number of chemicals in Toxaphene makes the chemical dangerous. Whether you use the pure form, or an advanced mixture of the substance, you risk getting cancer. Besides the pesticides, there are other products with Toxaphene, and they are equally dangerous.
Endrin kills plants, rodents, and insects. The US stopped its production and use in 1986. There is less known about Endrin aldehyde, an impurity from Endrin. There is also little known about Endrin ketone, a product produced when Endrin is exposed to light. According to CDC, this substance affects the nervous system by interfering with the transmission of impulses. For a product designed to kill rodents, it is dangerous to human beings. There are few studies on its effects, and EPA does not categorize it as carcinogenic.
Heptachlor affects the growth system of the plants, but when used in plants and insects, it affects their reproduction. Heptachlor affects plants and animals in their development stages. Granted, it is more dangerous to children. Animals and human beings exposed to it suffer from reproductive health issues. EPA and IARC rates Heptachlor as a probable carcinogen. Pure Heptachlor is a powder with the smell of mothballs, while the impure form is tan. Bacteria and animals can break down Heptachlor in Heptachlor epoxide. When Heptachlor epoxide breaks to Heptachlor and epoxide, the epoxide is more harmful to the environment than Heptachlor.
Pure Methoxychlor is yellow in color while the impure form is tan. It kills a host of insects. If you ingest it, it might cause infertility, and it can also affect an unborn baby. The EPA and the IARC have not classified it as a carcinogen. Methoxychlor has a fruity and musty odor, but that should not blind you from its effects. More research on Methoxychlor might reveal more effects from exposure to Methoxychlor, but before that, keep off.
Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid is the same as Chlordecone and Pentachlorophenol in that it does not occur naturally. According to CDC, Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid is very poisonous and can cause kidney, liver, and poison the blood. The CDC notes that it can cause leukocytosis and tachycardia among other conditions. You only need a small amount of this substance to start experiencing symptoms such as dizziness, vomiting, and more. Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid poisons different organs in the body, and can cause death within a few hours or a few days. Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid also interacts with other substances to cause respiratory issues, endocrine effects, ocular issues, and much more. The CDC has reviewed many studies on Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid and found the substance to be very fatal.
Chlordecone kills pests, rodents, and plant. Unlike Pyrethroids or Endrin, EPA rates Chlordecone as likely carcinogenic. IARC also notes that Chlordecone might be carcinogenic to humans. It is odorless and occurs naturally in the environment. The chemicals in Chlordecone affect the liver and kidney. When it gets in the body, it goes through the liver and is excreted through the kidneys, and this is why it affects these organs more. More research is needed to show the dose at which this substance causes cancer as EPA does not show the doses.
Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids
Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids naturally occur in a chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethroids are marketed as safe to human beings since they occur naturally, but they are not so safe. When Pyrethroids get to your skin, they can cause irritation. They also irritate the eyes and the respiratory passages. Prolonged exposure to Pyrethroids can cause convulsions, seizures, difficulties in breathing, and exhaustion. Some people also associate Pyrethroids with asthma as they affect the respiratory system. In rats, Pyrethroids causes liver tumors. Children are more affected by the substances as their organs are still developing. Pesticide manufacturers market Pyrethroids and Pyrethins as natural means to kill insects, but these substances are not safe.
Pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides are not safe, whether they occur naturally, or are manufactured in the lab. If you have to use any of these, check with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to see if the ingredients are safe. If the ingredients are safe for human use, are they safe for animals and the environment? Instead of chemical-laden methods, you can choose biological pest control to protect yourself, those around you and the environment.