Pesticides impact on human health
Pesticides do not just harm the organisms that they are designed to control. They also have a major impact on non-target organisms, including people.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 350,000 people die every year from acute pesticide poisoning. Moreover, this figure does not include deaths from cancer or other chronic diseases caused by pesticide exposure. In addition, the WHO estimates 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. Additionally, the Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention (CPSP) states that 15-20% of all suicides is by pesticide self-poisoning.
There are many routes of exposure to pesticides. They are in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we consume. We can also come into contact with them by being close to areas where they are being used. Rural residents can suffer the effects of agricultural pesticide drift, and people in towns and cities can be exposed as a result of spraying in public spaces, and areas such as streets, pavements and parks.
Farmers, farm-workers and their families are one of the groups most frequently exposed and as a result often have higher rates of pesticide-related ill health. Other groups more vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides include children, pregnant women, the elderly and the sick.