Health Effects of Pesticides | Dr Jay Deshmukh

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Dr Jay Deshmukh:- Pesticides are substances that are meant to control pests or weeds. It is a chemical agent that deters, incapacitates or kills or otherwise discourages pests. Few pesticides can cause death in humans as a result of spraying. There are about more than 3 lac deaths every year worldwide due to acute pesticide exposure. Recently from Yavatmal district, more than 25 farmers died due to pesticide exposure.


What are the various groups of pesticides?

  1. Pesticides can be grouped according to the type of pests which they kill. Insecticides kill insects, herbicides kill plants, rodenticides kill rodents or mice, bactericides kill bacteria, fungicides kill fungi and larvicides kill larvae.
  2. What are the chemically related pesticides?  Organophosphate, Carbamate, Organochlorine insecticides, Pyrethroid, Sulphonylurea herbicides, Biopesticides are a few examples.

What is the primary benefit of pesticides?

  1.  They control pests, and disease vectors, control human, livestock vectors and nuisance organisms and control organisms that harm other human activities and structures.

What are the effects of pesticides?

  1. Dr Jay Deshmukh:-  The toxic chemicals in pesticides are deliberately released in the environment. A very large percentage of pesticides reach a destination other than their target. Instead, they enter the air, water, sediments and even end up in our food. Pesticides have been linked to human health hazards. Short term effects could cause headaches and nausea and chronic effects could be cancer and reproductive harm. The use of these also decreases the general biodiversity in the soil. If there is no chemical in the soil, there is higher soil quality, this allows for higher water retention, which is necessary for plants to grow.

How can spraying of pesticides harm a farmer?

  1. Dr Jay Deshmukh:-  Spraying of pesticides certainly exposes the farmer to the ill effects. These are organophosphate compounds that are quickly absorbed by the wet skin due to sweating and also can be inhaled. The greater the bare skin exposed to these pesticides, greater would be the absorption and greater the ill effects. The wind direction may also influence exposure.

What precautions need to be taken in pesticide usage?

  1. Use only just required quantity. Do not purchase leaking containers, loose unsealed or torn bags. Do not purchase pesticides without properly approved labels. Avoid storage of pesticides in house premises. Keep only in the original container with an intact seal. Do not transfer pesticides to another container. Never keep them together with food or fodder. Keep away from children and livestock. Do not expose to sunlight or rainwater.

What are the precautions for spraying pesticides?

  1. Dr Jay Deshmukh:-  Always use clean water. Always protect your nose, eyes, mouth, ears and hands. Use hand gloves, handkerchiefs or a clean cloth as a mask and a cap or towel to cover the head. Do not use polythene bags contaminated with pesticides. Do not smell the sprayer tank. Do not eat, chew, drink or smoke while preparing a solution. The operator should protect his bare feet and hands with polythene bags. Do not apply on a hot sunny day or in strong windy conditions. Do not spray against the wind. Avoid entry of animals and workers in the fields immediately after spraying.

What are the important symptoms of impending side effects of exposure to pesticides?

  1. Dr Jay Deshmukh:- Severe burning in eyes, severe sweating with sudden dry cough and vomiting and suffocating feeling in the chest, dizziness, breathlessness and choking sensation in the chest area a few symptoms. Vomiting and lose motions are also early symptoms of toxicity.

What should be done immediately?

  1. Dr Jay Deshmukh:-  Stop spraying and immediately bring the farmer to a safer environment. Immediately clean his eyes and skin with clean water. Do not feed him or make him drink water if he is drowsy. All the containers of pesticides mention the antidote. Most of these are inexpensive and should be available. In fact, they can be kept at home to be used in an emergency. Do not waste time. In case the farmer is breathless immediately shift him to a hospital.

Dr Jay Deshmukh:-  Pesticides are known to improve the crop yield and is a boon to agriculture. However, they are in the news for some tragic consequences. Excessive and improper handling of spraying pesticides has cost many lives of the breadwinners of young families in Yavatmal district. All farmers need to be properly educated to prevent such tragedies.

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Dr Jay Deshmukh is Chief Physician and Director, Sunflower Hospital, Nagpur Honorary Physician to Honorable Governor of Maharashtra and PondicherryCentral. Dr Jay Deshmukh is an M.B.B.S., M.C.P.S., F.C.P.S., M.N.A.M.S., MD From Internal Medicine – Bombay and New Delhi.

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