Pesticides impact on human health
Pesticides impact on human health as they can be highly hazardous, causing severe and sometimes fatal illness among farm families and farm workers. In addition, they impact on wildlife and the environment, and add toxins into the food chain.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 350 000 people die every year from acute pesticide poisoning. This figure does not include deaths from cancer or other chronic diseases caused by pesticide exposure. Furthermore, the WHO believes that long-term exposure may result in upwards of 750 000 people suffering from specific chronic defects and cancers each year. This number refers to developing countries alone.
Pesticides are a drain on developing economies
The costs of illness and injury associated with pesticide use are a major drain on developing world economies. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that these costs in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005 were US$ 4.2 billion. Notably, this is almost equal to the amount received in the region in overseas aid for healthcare that year (excluding Aids programmes).
And the situation is getting worse. UNEP estimates that between 2015 and 2020 the health costs of pesticide exposure in sub-Saharan Africa will amount to US$ 90 billion.
In addition, unfair trading arrangements, exploitative markets and irresponsible pesticide suppliers can drive small farmers into debt. Pesticides can eat up around 60% of a smallholder cotton farmer’s income in West Africa. And harvests are often too meagre to generate enough cash to pay debts.
Pesticides harm wildlife and the environment
Many pesticides are highly hazardous to wildlife and the environment. And some can remain in the environment for decades. They accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals and contaminate soil, water and air far from where they are used.
Sadly, some rivers in Africa are so polluted that domestic livestock die from drinking from them.