In everyday life we rarely think about the quality of the food we eat. The growing earth population leads to increased demand for food, which is partially provided by the treatment of crops with pesticides, an approach which increases the crop yields. We’ve all heard that these substances are hazardous to our health, but we are hardly aware of all the negative consequences of their use.
In general, pesticides are chemical or biological substances intended to repel or kill pests on crops. These substances can be ingested by humans along with the food and cause many health issues, some of which are life threatening. Chronic human health effects may occur years after even minimal exposure to pesticides in the environment, or result from the pesticide residues which we ingest through our food and water.
The pesticides are most dangerous for pregnant women during the gestation period and cause a variety of developmental defects in offspring. The exposure of women to organochlorine pesticides results to sixfold increase in risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for their children. Pesticides can cause many types of cancer in humans. Some of the most prevalent forms include leukemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, brain, bone, breast, ovarian, prostate, testicular and liver cancers. One of the reasons for the pesticide-caused cancerogenesis is that they can directly damage our chromosomes (the DNA molecules, which contain our genes). When the DNA damage occurs at genes, which code for regulatory proteins known as tumor-suppressors (proteins, which exert control over the cell cycle), the corresponding protein may become non-functional, resulting in hyper proliferative cells, leading to carcinogenesis.
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Experiments conducted with rats showed that exposure of rat lymphocytes to various concentrations of one the most extensively used organophosphate (OP) pesticides caused significantly marked increase in DNA damage. Exposure to pesticides disrupts the endocrine system, wreaking havoc with the complex regulation of hormones, the reproductive system, and embryonic development. For example, the pesticides could alter the Estrogen Receptor signaling pathway disturbing the hormonal network in trophoblast cells – the cells, which provide nutrients to the embryo and develop into a large part of the placenta, thus threatening the maternal-fetal health.
Endocrine disruption can produce infertility, as well as hormonal imbalance and incomplete sexual development, impaired brain development, behavioral disorders, and many others. Pesticides can act as endocrine disrupting chemicals, altering the homeostasis of body metabolism. Examples of known endocrine disrupting chemicals that are present in large quantities in our environment include DDT (which still persists in abundance more than 20 years after being banned in the U.S.), lindane, atrazine, carbaryl, parathion, and many others. Although the negative impact of pesticides on human health is extensively studied during the last 50 years, these substances are still in use to maintain and preserve our mono-culture crop fields from different species of pests. The best solution for us to stay healthy is to avoid the pesticides by purchasing food, raised by techniques called – permaculture. This is an organic agriculture method, which allows growing vegetables and fruits with natural-only means.
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