Pesticides are chemical compositions employed to eliminate fungal or animal pests. Nonetheless, an average of 95% reaches other organisms apart from the targeted pests, because of their application technique in the farming fields. For instance, overflow can take pesticides into water bodies, while the breeze can take them to other areas such as human settlements and grazing regions, probably affecting other animals.
More challenges arise such as poor production, storage, and transport practices. Repeatedly spraying also enhances the pest resistance and resurgence while still affecting the other organisms in the soil.
Every pesticide or a group of pesticides gets accompanied by a set of hazards in the environment. Such unwanted outcomes have caused the banning of a lot of pesticides in addition to regulations that are meant to minimize and decrease the usage of others.
As much as the number of pesticides sprayed per hectare has reduced due to pesticide use regulations globally, it is still on the rise in some areas that use old and out of date pesticides. This has created some significant levels of pesticide footprint in the environment.
How Pesticide Pollution Affects Air, Water, and Soil?
1. Pesticides contribute to air pollution
When there is a pesticide drift, and they get to be suspended in the air and move when the wind blows, it potentially pollutes the air. Pesticides that have been applied to plants are easily volatile and can be blown away to nearby places, possibly creating danger for wild animals and people living in such areas.
Mainly, pesticides that get applied in the form of powder can be transported by the wind to other regions. The relative humidity and temperature at the time of application contribute to the spreading of the pesticide in the air, so, the more the wind blows, the more they spread and vice versa.
Thus, the quantity of inhalable pesticides is dependent on the weather and season. The pesticides can also stick to dust particles in the air. Spraying at the ground level can reduce the drift as compared to above ground spraying.
2. Contributes to tropospheric ozone
Since most farmers do not utilize a shield zone around the crops, which can be made up of bare land or plants that are not crops such as trees that will act as windbreakers and take up the pesticides, it mostly gets absorbed in the air and the soil.
As a result, pesticides sprayed on fields to disinfect soil can produce chemicals called volatile organic compounds. These compounds tend to react with other chemicals and create a pollutant known as tropospheric ozone. Thus, pesticides contribute to about 6% of the total tropospheric ozone levels.
3. Contamination of water bodies
In the US (United States), pesticides were discovered to contaminate each watercourse and over ninety percent of wells tested in a research conducted by the US Geological Survey. What is more, residues of pesticides have been also discovered in groundwater and rain.
Researches in the United Kingdom show that the concentration in pesticides is too much from samples taken from some rivers and groundwater and for this reason, no longer fit for drinking.
4. Killing of aquatic life
The effects of pesticides on aquatic systems are frequently studied by means of hydrology transport model which studies movement and outcome of chemicals in water bodies. During the 1970’s, quantitative evaluations of pesticides runoff were carried out so to assess the quantity of chemicals that can reach surface waters.
When the chemicals in the pesticides reach water bodies, they are absorbed or ingested by aquatic life forms such as fish leading to organ failure and diseases, eventually killing them. The chemicals may also alter the water body’s PH, therefore, interfering with the normal functioning of aquatic life.
4. Pesticides end up killing the micro-organisms in the soil
Using pesticides for an extended period on crops will, in the long run, percolate into the soil. The moment they are in the soil, they terminate micro-organisms despite their crucial role of breaking down organic substances and help in growing of crops.
It can normally take a lot of years for micro-organisms to once more live in an area that has been contaminated by deadly pesticides.
Fatal Effects of Pesticides on Human Health and the Environment
1. Causes diseases which can be chronic
Contact with pesticides can happen in a lot of ways; it can be through agricultural activities, treating crops, planting and in grain stores. It can also happen while planting a garden, forestry, skilled and domestic pest control and when spraying is done and using facilities, for instance, the parks, playgrounds, and pavements.
Exposure may also happen in the treatment of woods with preservatives, treating of livestock and hull boats. Because of the various modes of application, pesticides remain in the environment and are, for instance, found in our foods that put the lives of people in danger.
Pesticides, therefore, can result in dangerous and deadly consequences even after one sole consumption, breathing, or contact with the skin. There are even symptoms that can manifest shortly after coming into contact with the chemicals.
Some of the symptoms may be in the form of:
- Coughing, sore throat, and irritation in the respiratory tract.
- Irritation in the eyes and skin.
- Feelings of nausea, queasiness, and diarrhea
- Losing consciousness and headaches
- Feeling extremely weak, convulsions and/or demise
Apart from the short-term effects, there are also dangerous long-term effects of pesticides after nonstop contact at low levels. Being exposed to low levels over time have been connected with the development of Parkinson’s ailment, cancer, depression and anxiety, asthma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma to mention a few.
2. Pesticides can alter an individuals’ normal functioning
An additional challenge is that a person who gets affected by the chemicals can be affected when the pesticide interacts with other poisonous substances that people get exposed to.
Each day people get exposed to a combination of pesticides and the actuality is that no one is sure of the actual effects of consistently being exposed to even low concentration of pesticides. Often, it can result in reduced physical activity and changes in the normal functioning of certain body organs.
3. They are dangerous to terrestrial and aquatic plants
There are a lot of risks to the environment associated with the use of pesticides thus surpassing the benefits that are sought after. They have radical effects on species that were not targeted leading to effects on animal and plant biodiversity. After applying the chemicals, they volatilize in a short period.
For example, herbicides have a tendency of volatilizing off the sprayed crops and vaporizing. The vapors, as a consequence, are capable of causing serious harm to other plants. Uninhibited usage of pesticides has caused a decrease in a number of earthly and aquatic organisms and species of plants.
They have also endangered the continued existence of some uncommon species such as osprey, peregrine falcon, and bald eagle. Besides, the air, water, and soil have reached toxic levels due to the pesticide pollution.
Amongst all the groups of these chemicals, insecticides are considered to be one of the most deadly while fungicides and herbicides follow with regards to toxicity amounts.
4. They are toxic to animals, both wild and domestic
When pesticides get into the ordinary ecosystems, they do that in two methods depending on how soluble they are. The water-soluble ones get dissolved in water, lakes, ponds, rivers thus harming species that were not targeted.
Alternatively, the ones that are fat-soluble get into animals’ bodies through “bioampliﬁcation” or “biomagnification“. This means that the chemicals get soaked up in the fatty tissues of animals, in consequence, causing perseverance of pesticides in the food chain for long periods of time.
5. Pesticides are poisonous to fish species
When pesticides get into the water, they do so by drifting, running off, and leaching in the soil or through the direct application on top of the water, for example, to eliminate mosquitoes.
Water that has been polluted creates a great danger to animals and organisms living in water by reducing the amount of oxygen available and also result in mental and behavioral alterations in the fish populace.
Many studies conducted show that lawn care pesticides have been found in surfaces of ponds, rivers, and oceans. The studies further indicate that pesticide-contaminated water poses a great threat to aquatic form of life namely fishes and other living organisms.
Not only are pesticides harmful, but also in interacting with different stressors such as algal blooms, they become even more lethal.
Studies show that plants in water give about 80% of oxygen in water; the oxygen is essential in sustaining the aquatic life. Terminating the plants through the use of herbicides severely reduces the quantity of oxygen available and eventually leading to the suffocation of fish and reduces their productivity.