Herbicide & Insecticide Dangers

Herbicides and insecticides are widely used to keep pests away from our gardens, flowers and yards. All chemicals have the potential to harm animals and humans if used improperly. The only truly safe herbicide or insecticide are the natural options, which may not be as effective. Studies from the past few years point to these chemicals as contributing to cancer, autism and other conditions. Before using any pesticides or herbicides around your home, be sure to choose the right formula to target the chosen pest. While applying, wear long sleeves, safety goggles, gloves and a mask and keep pets and children away.

Roundup: The Controversy

Glyphosphate (Roundup), produced by Monsanto, is one of the most toxic herbicides and the third most commonly reported cause of pesticide-related illness among agricultural workers, according to the Organic Consumers Association. Roundup contains other harmful chemicals besides glyphosphate, which increases the risks. Studies from the Women's Cancer Resource Center and Coalition for a Healthy Oakland School Environment found that glyphosphate can damage the liver, kidneys and reproductive organs. Monsanto claims that Roundup safely breaks down into harmless substances; however, research shows that Roundup is harmful to mammals, birds, earthworms and beneficial insects. Roundup accounts for half of Monsanto's profits.

Neurological Dangers

Many pesticides kill by damaging the nervous system of the targeted pest.They usually target the enzyme that regulates acetylcholine, a neurotramsmitter. One group of these, organophosphates, were used as nerve agents in World War II. DDT and chlordane, organochlorine insecticides, were removed from the market due to adverse effects on humans and the environment. These chemicals were also very persistent and difficult to eradicate from the environment. A study at Duke University found that excessive application of DEET to laboratory rats affected their movements, muscle control and learning. Infants and children are at risk for brain damage from excessive DEET because their skin absorbs chemicals more readily than adults.

Dangers to Pregnancy

Studies reviewed by the professional journal Epidemiology showed that women living near farm areas where certain pesticides were sprayed had an increased risk of 40 to 120 percent in miscarriages. Another study showed that women who were three to eight weeks pregnant had double the risk of stillborn babies if they lived within a mile of an agricultural area where organophosphate, pyrethroid, carbamate or chlorinated pesticides were used.

Keywords: pesticide chemical dangers, dangers of insecticides, risks of herbicides

About this Author

Roma Lightsey began writing professionally in 2009 and is a registered nurse in a large city hospital. She has written for "Grit" magazine and also wrote a newspaper health column. Most of her writing is about disease and health. Lightsey holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Alabama and a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Jacksonville State University.