Pesticides and Health
Pesticides are designed and deliberately introduced into the environment to kill pests – so it's not surprising that they can also have harmful effects on other organisms, including humans. These pages give an overview of the issues; specific problems will vary widely from country to country because of different chemicals used under different conditions.
Exposure to pesticides has the potential to lead to serious health problems, both in the short and the long term. The health impact of pesticides depends on the type of pesticide and amount of exposure, and on the individual – for example, young children
Some pesticides are 'acutely toxic', that is, cause problems soon after exposure. Acute pesticide poisoning is often a serious health issue in developing countries, and is almost certainly under-reported. The lack of evidence makes it impossible to regulate pesticides adequately, including older pesticides that have been banned in developed countries precisely because of evidence of their actual health impacts.
There is also evidence that prolonged or repeated exposure to some pesticides may increase the risk of some serious health problems, including some cancers, reproductive problems, and neurological problems such as Parkinson's disease. This is known as chronic toxicity.
Although there is a lot of evidence linking pesticide exposure in general with a wide range of health problems, it is very difficult to demonstrate cause and effect with chronic health problems, and to identify which of the hundreds of pesticide ingredients are responsible.
PAN UK runs a project called PEX (pesticide exposure) for people in the UK who believe that their health has been affected by pesticides. If you have experienced health problems following pesticide exposure, PEX would like to hear from you.
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