An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. Chemical insecticides are often toxic, while organic insecticides are nature-based. Biological pest control is a focus of organic gardening and sustainable agricultural practices. Fertilizer is an amendment used on the uppermost layer of soil that provides a minimum percentage of nutrients. The main ingredients of chemical fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Insecticides made from organophosphate (OP) compounds are a by-product of the nerve gas weaponry of World War II. Tetraethyl pyrophosphate (TEPP) was the first OP insecticide marketed for use as nerve poison for insects. Chemical fertilizer was developed as a by-product of the liquid ammonia used in gunpowder, invented by German physicist Fritz Haber.
Organophosphate compounds are derived from phosphoric acid, a clear, odorless colorless liquid. OPs are among the most acutely toxic substances to vertebrate animals as well as insects. Birds, small wildlife and fish also sustain nerve damage when OP insecticides are used. Insecticides such as DDT have been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1972.
Chemical fertilizer use has increased exponentially since World War II, until it is now a primary cause of global pollution, according to the World Resources Institute. Nitrogen-overload from chemical fertilizer unbalances natural eco-systems causing problems such as plant deformities and loss of soil fertility. In the United States, overuse of nitrogen fertilizer has led to the destruction of native grasslands. Water sources in the Northeast receive 20 times the normal amount of nitrogen from the atmosphere.
Insecticide poisoning symptoms include excessive sweating, salivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, general weakness, headache, poor concentration and tremors. In serious cases, respiratory failure and death can occur, according to the Toxic Trail pesticide watchdog group. There are an estimated 25-million cases of pesticide poisoning globally each year, despite label warnings about the precautionary measures that would prevent poisoning.
Home gardeners participate in the reduction of global pollution by not using chemical fertilizer products, chemical insecticides or herbicides. There are many local recycling programs that give workshops on backyard composting and natural methods of insect control. The massive increase in fertilizer use resulted in about 210-million metric tons of nitrogen per year being released into the earth's atmosphere. Organic fertilizers and backyard compost do not pollute the atmosphere or degrade soil fertility.