Pesticides: The Unknown Dangers


Industrialized Agriculture has a love affair the use of pesticides. The affair with pesticides began in the 1940s and was marketed to the American people, along with great post WWII miracle inventions such as nylon and the ball point pen. But are pesticides the root cause of modern day mental illness and other health concerns?

Between 1947 and 1949, pesticide companies invested nearly $4 billion into expanding their production facilities, and made huge profits. By 1952-53, there were some 10,000 separate new pesticide products registered with the USDA, in what was labeled by journalists and historians as “The Golden Age of Pesticides.”

California supplies more produce than anywhere else in the world and today, well over 33 million pounds of fumigants are used in California agriculture each year with over 9 million of cancer-causing chloropicrin alone.

A disturbing new study out of UCLA’s Sustainable Technology & Policy Program found, that “these pesticides may interact to increase the health risk for California farm workers and residents” and regulators do not exercise their authority to regulate the application of multiple pesticides to prevent or decrease risks to human health.

The UCLA study found that “Each of the pesticides … causes adverse health effects in humans or animals, including acute, developmental, reproductive, and neuro-toxicity, and carcinogenicity and mutagenicity. There is a reasonable likelihood that the three pesticides can interact to synergistically increase the toxicity to humans.”

Two in particular are very distressing because they are used in strawberry fields almost everywhere. The first one is chloropicrin which is a carcinogen. … We inherited it from WWII as so called vomit gas because when you sprayed it on the enemy, in the war, they would have to remove their face mask in order to vomit.

Chloropicrin causes poisoning of the lungs, skin and the digestive tract. And the other one that’s of major concern is Telone or 1,3-dichloropropene. This one is another cancer causing chemical. And it’s also neurotoxic, and impacts fertility.

They also impact the DNA by altering it in ways that could lead to cancer.

Why the Autism Rate has Increased

There’s a direct link between ADHD and autism. Many of these brain damaging pesticides result in these conditions, even pre-birth. Children most effected by this are those raised in families of lower socioeconomic status.

A 1999 civil rights lawsuit against the California Department of Pesticides charged the state with discriminatory regulations by allowing for disproportionate number of Latino children to be exposed to hazardous pesticides. This case, now settled, went on for twelve years. The Department of Pesticide Regulation accepted no guilt.

Dennis J Bernstein contributed to this article.