October 1, 2012

Types of Pesticides and What They Do

Filed under: child health,health,teen health — @ 1:15 pm

There are a number of reasons why pesticides are used, although we usually associate their use with food production. Pesticides are also used to control infestations of ants or termites, to prevent malaria mosquitos from breeding, in dips for sheep, and even in the flea and tick products you might be putting on your dogs and cats.

Although we may think of pesticides being used against insects, the term actually encompasses herbicides and fungicides as well.

A scary thought is that less than 1% of the pesticides used actually reach the target – 99% of them are simply added to the environment. There are many types of pesticides used in the United States, and unfortunately, no one knows much about the long term human effects.

Common Pesticide: Atrizine

One of the most widely used pesticides in the United States is actually an herbicide called atrazine. This product is used on agricultural land to kill weeds, and you may also see it sprayed along highways to control unwanted plants.

It is perhaps significant that although it is considered to be ‘safe’ here in the States, atrazine has been banned in most of Europe. Rather alarmingly, it has been found in nearly every water system in the central Midwest, and in a few places in the South.

No one is certain what the effects of pesticides in humans would be as regards atrazine, but damage has been done to the heart, kidneys, and livers in animals exposed to it.

Herbicides, including atrazine, actually constitute the types of pesticides used most in the United States. It is definitely disturbing that tests of blood and urine from various places in the country have always shown the presence of these questionable chemicals

Other Types of Pesticides and What They Do

When sprayed on fields, the herbicides alachlor and 1,3 – dichloropropene can enter the water system either through runoff into streams or groundwater or can be spread as dust in the wind.

Additionally, herbicides are often taken into the crop itself, and once integrated into the actual structure of the fruit or vegetable, will be impossible to remove by washing. Dichloropropene has been found to irritate mucus membranes, cause anemia, and is probably a carcinogen. The effects of alachlor are even more serious and include damage to the spleen, eyes, liver, and it does cause cancer.

Aldicarb is one of the most dangerous types of pesticides and is used to kill or control such crop pests as thrips, mites, and aphids as well as soil-dwelling nematodes. Although an agreement was reached between the EPA and the manufacturer in 2010 to end the use of aldicarb, it can still be produced by the company until 2014 and will not be actually prohibited until four years after that.

Aldicarb is also smuggled in from Mexico for use by unscrupulous farmers. This is such a potent toxin that it can cause death from paralysis of the lungs, although people exposed to it will usually experience only such symptoms as nausea, blurry vision, headaches, and tremors.

Why Are So Many Pesticides Used?

Part of the reason why our country has become so saturated with pesticides is the practice of monoculture.

Monoculture means that vast fields of only one kind of crop are planted, such as thousands of acres of corn or beans. These fields act as a magnet for insects and pests especially, and as such the pests are difficult to control.

It has probably been the demise of the smaller, family farm that has contributed most to the widespread use of chemicals to control pests. It would be unrealistic to imagine that the United States could return to pre-WW II agriculture, but there is no reason why more rigorous testing of pesticides cannot be conducted before these products are used and released into the environment.

July 22, 2011

Free Breakfast At School A Problem?

Wouldn’t it be great if schools provided breakfast for kids in the morning? Parents would not have to worry about waking up early to prepare their child’s lunch and breakfast. However, what if your child was allergic to certain types of food? Approximately 6% of children in the U.S have food allergies. Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat are known as the ‘big eight’ due to the fact that they are common food allergies and account for 90% of food allergies.

However, in January, the Chicago board of education passed a mandate that required every elementary school to serve a free breakfast during the first 15 minutes of the day. Parents were quick to send their concerns and objections to the board due to the fear of children with allergies being exposed to life-threatening foods. For example, Nathan Sodolski, who is a first grader, would break out in hives or go to the emergency room just by having spilled milk or eggs on his desk. According to Dr. Kelly Newhall at the Chicago Family Asthma and Allergy medical practice, this is extremely risky for little kids because they are at the age where their hands are constantly in their mouths. Many parents suggest that they are on board for supporting feeding hungry kids but believe there are better alternatives to do so. So far, 1000 parents have signed the petition against breakfast being served in elementary schools.

So far an agreement has been reached to not serve peanut products at breakfast but parents are still upset that officials have planned for students to clean their desk rather than adults, which means that they will have to touch certain foods that they could be allergic too. This has increased the fears of many parents who have children with severe food allergies because they are at a greater risk. Dr Newhall stated that, “…25% of children who have no known food allergies have their first reaction at school.” This only adds to the worry of many parents.