25 Bad Effects of Agricultural Chemicals on Human Health

Agriculture meaning has narrowed down to plant farming (horticulture), but actually, it also includes the science of livestock breeding, and fungus cultivating. Because of the rapid increase of human population, food demand is also rocketed. Agricultural chemicals or also known as agrochemicals are a product used in agriculture to increase the production by controlling the object growth or by terminating possible pest.

The popular use of agrochemical today was due to ineffective of mechanical pest control in the past. In addition, agricultural chemicals are used because they produce certain effects with less effort.

Agrochemical is classified as :

  • Fertilizers; plant nutrient supplier
  • Growth hormones; growth, reproduction and regeneration stimulator.
  • Insecticides; controlling harmful insect pests that damage field crops.
  • Fungicides; controlling diseases that damage field crops.
  • Insect-fungicides; simultaneously control harmful insect pests and diseases that damage field crops.
  • Herbicide; controlling weeds.
  • Rodenticides; controlling rats and other rodents.
  • Attractants; attracting mainly harmful insect pests by odor or other means.
  • Repellents; having repellent action on harmful mammals and birds that damage field crops.
  • Spreaders; mixed with other agricultural chemicals to enhance the adherence of these chemicals.
  • Plant growth regulators; promoting or inhibiting the growth of field crops.

Despite the bunch advantages of using it, there is as much as the side-effects of it cause to the environment. This is because most of agrochemical are naturally toxic. Agrochemicals are highly regulated and some are banned in many countries. The regulation includes the prevention of misuse, proper storage, labeling, and safety equipment. Well, please read about Chemicals Used in Organic Farming for your information.

Agrochemical that directly exposed to agricultural worker through inhalation, ingestion or dermal penetration can cause acute toxicity. However, the main concern about agrochemical effects to human lay in its indirect exposure to human. The residue can bio-accumulate, sedimented, and transported in long distances unknowingly. Beside direct ingestion of agrichemical polluted products, human can also get affected by agrichemical residue that taints the water body near agricultural spot.

Based on the book entitled Pesticides: Evaluation of Environmental Pollution, the effects of agrichemicals on human health depend on the toxicity, length, and magnitude of the exposure groups that can be exposed to high levels of bioaccumulated pesticides include :

  • habitual consumers of fish, livestock, and dairy products,
  • fetuses and nursing infants whose mothers bodies have accumulated substantial levels of persistent pesticides,
  • sick people who metabolize pesticide-bioaccumulated fatty tissues while ill.

Thus, there maybe harmful effects of agricultural chemicals on human health as people still use some List of Banned Agricultural Chemicals

The short-term (acute) effects of agrochemical exposure to human includes :

There are some bad effects of agricultural chemicals on human health.

  1. Dizziness
  2. Headaches
  3. Blurred vision
  4. Vomiting
  5. breathlessness
  6. Abdominal pain
  7. Skin and eye irritation
  8. Coughing
  9. Burning sensation

Acute toxicity can easily be gone if the cause if terminated. However, pesticide poisoning still can be fatal and lead to coma or even death.

The long-term (delayed) effects happen when a small amount of chemicals is contacted in low-level and prolonged time. The probable roots of problem usually difficult to find since mostly the sufferer have no beginning symptoms or complains. The effects are way worse than acute effects and life-threatening. You may also read about Applications of Analytical Chemistry in Daily Life 

The potential delayed effects of agrochemical exposure to human includes :

Effects of agricultural chemicals on human health as follow

1. Reproductive disruptor

Multigenerational studies are now required for new pesticide registration, with information sought for reproductive toxic properties that affect gametogenesis, fertilization, implantation, embryogenesis, and fetal growth, maternal/neonatal relationship, and postnatal maturity. The exposure of pesticide also associated with male fertility, sperm alteration, sperm quantity reduction, and germinal epithelium damage.

2. Hormone disorder

Pesticide can alter how the hormonal system work. The sign is shown as low libido, fatigue, and even depression. The main suspect of pesticide that causes this disorder is DDT. 

3. Cancer risk 

Most of agrochemical are carcinogen in a certain way. Cancer that mostly produced by prolonged exposure are leukemia (white blood cells cancer), lymphoma (Lymps cancer), brain, kidney, breast, pancreas, liver, lung, prostate, and skin cancer. However, in reality, it’s hard to detect the main factor that triggers cancer. The probable pesticides that carcinogen are Aldrin and DDT. You may also read about List of Chemicals Known to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity

4. Subtle and delayed neurotoxic effects

Organophosphate pesticide is studied has peripheral neurotoxicity, especially in sensory nerves. Pesticide also can alter intracellular ionic levels. Such alterations may trigger secondary changes that induce cytotoxicity in axons and neuronal cell bodies, similar to chemotherapy-induced peripheral neurotoxicity.

It also increases the risk of Alzheimer disease. The example of the pesticide that causes nerve damage are chlorpyriphos, endosulfan, heptachlor, and quinalphos.

5. Respiratory problem

The respiratory symptoms were significantly higher in the short-term exposed compared to long-term exposure. The exposed victim may show asthma-like symptom which identifies as a tight feeling in the chest and cough that never goes away. This symptom may lead to lung cancer if left untreated. The example of a pesticide that affects lung is chlordane.

6. Liver disease

The liver metabolizes the chemical compound that enters human body such as drugs. This mechanism also works with pesticide because of strong poisons. This will lead to toxic hepatitis in the severe case.

7. Developmental effect

Based on the World Resources Institute, many organic and metal-based pesticides can also pass from, mother to unborn child through the placenta, potentially leading to birth defects, abnormal development of the immune system, and fetal death.

8. Immunological effects

Health studies linking pesticide exposure to increases in illness and death from infectious disease. This happens because pesticide exposure may contribute to immune system alteration. This also can increase the risk of leukemia and stomach cancer, since those are more common among persons with primary immunodeficiency syndromes than in the general population.

9. Cardiovascular illness

The mechanism of agrochemical effects on cardiovascular is similar to respiratory illness. Mainly caused by the exposure of SO2 ( Sulphur Dioxide Uses )and NOx. 

Other notable effects are :

  1. Multiple sclerosis-like diseases
  2. Gastroenteritis
  3. Meningitis
  4. Otitis
  5. DNA mutation

The study has shown that agrichemical regulations are not applied correctly in the third-world countries. The worker often overuses or misuse the chemicals. There is almost no safety equipment used and it is a normal day job for them to walk through sprayed pesticide.

Moreover, globally banned pesticides like organophosphate and organochloride are still used and sold there. The lack of hazard awareness was due to the language barrier that is shown in pesticide packaging, lack regulatory authorities, low health promotion, and the fear of losing the job. The government should promote safe agricultural work and make the regulation to manage the drainage and water flow in the plantation.