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Agricultural Pesticide Runoff
The development of various methods of using pesticides enabled farmers to provide better harvest and supply of products. However, the extensive use of pesticides in the agriculture has caused particular negative consequences. Pesticide runoff that puts a threat to water supplies is one of them. Lari et al. revealed that surface water appears to be more contaminated than groundwater (7). Therefore, people using surface water supplies as a source of drinking water are at risk of being exposed to high levels of pesticides. Harnpicharnchai, Chaiear, and Charerntanyarak found that population of rural areas with developed agriculture is at high risk of using the water contaminated with pesticides (1088). The causes of such situation can be found in overuse of pesticides and neglectful attitude of farmers to safety issues related to following the rules of storing and handling pesticides (Lamers et al. 170).
Scientists express numerous concerns about the environmental effects of agricultural pesticide runoff. The results of numerous studies demonstrating the elevated levels of contamination of surface waters reveal the potential harm agriculture causes to the water supplies. Anyusheva et al. found that exposure to the toxic levels of pesticides of aquaculture is significant in contaminated water supplies (515). Such situation directly affects lives of various organisms and contributes to the worsening of environmental safety. Human health is also affected by the discussed issue. Therefore, the importance of careful investigation of the specifics of agricultural pesticide runoff, its effects on public health, and the ways of reducing it should not be underestimated. Dealing with this issue is an essential part of promoting public health, as millions of people all over the world are exposed to pesticides through using water sources damaged by careless agriculture. Studying the potential exposures and effects on human health and analyzing current and potential public health initiatives help to reveal the specifics of agricultural pesticide runoff through the prism of public health and see the possible solutions.
Assessment of Exposure
Proper monitoring of the data for pesticides is the key to assessing the potential exposures of people to water contaminated with pesticides. Though the main pesticides are monitored in most developed countries, further development of appropriate data is often prevented by the amount of spending needed for providing such improvements. The population of developing countries appears to be at the highest risk of exposure to pesticides caused by agricultural runoff due to the lack of adequate institutions and investments able to provide the efficient level of monitoring.
Besides the occupational exposure to pesticides related to the specifics of certain jobs, the general population is also at risk of being exposed to pesticides contamination caused by agricultural pesticide runoff. The presence of pesticide residues in water, air, and the food is considered the main consequence of the neglectful use of pesticides in agriculture as it puts a serious risk to the safety of people all over the world. The population of rural areas living close to the agricultural fields and using the water sources located near such places is the main group exposed to the risk of pesticide contamination. Most cases of contamination are caused by drinking water containing high levels of pesticides or eating food that was wetted or washed with such water.
Modern science regards exposure to pesticides caused by agricultural pesticide runoff as a serious problem affecting the health of people. Though the assessment of risks related to consuming the products and drinking water containing pesticides is a complicated task that gives controversial results, the overall position of most scientists reflects their concerns with negative effects on human health caused by pesticides exposure through products and water. A non-occupational exposure mostly involves low doses and can be regarded as chronic. Therefore, the results of such exposure usually can be seen as long-term effects that appear after a long period of chronic exposure.
The long-term effects include risks of cancer (breast, lung, and skin cancer, etc.), neurological outcomes (Parkinson’s disease), birth defects, fertility problems, and respiratory problems. Short-term effects that can be observed immediately after poisoning with pesticides and include a headache, insomnia, dizziness, and nausea in the case of mild poisoning, vomiting, rapid pulse, trembling, and mental confusion in the case of moderate poisoning, and unconsciousness, loss of reflexes, and even death in the case of severe poisoning. The analysis of health effects caused by exposure to pesticides reveals the significance of dealing with the problem of agricultural pesticide runoff, as it creates a risk of severe health damages and fatal outcomes.
Assessment of Public Health Impact
The risk of development of serious health complications as a result of exposure to pesticides caused by agricultural pesticide runoff is one of the problems that need to be addressed by public health sector to prevent further worsening of the situation. One of the main directions of activities of public health institutions related to lowering agricultural pesticide runoff includes encouraging the government to provide appropriate policies regulating the use of each type of pesticides based on the results of scientific research revealing their negative effects on human health. Conducting research presenting relevant proofs of possible damage to the health of the population that can be caused by the pesticides can be considered one of the most effective activities of the public health sector.
Developing the precise methods of assessing the contamination of water sources used by people for drinking and wetting of the crops is also one of the essential ways of addressing the discussed issue. Modern, up-to-date equipment in combination with the effective methodology developed on the basis of scientific research are the keys to preventing exposure to pesticides caused by agricultural pesticide runoff through timely detection and elimination of potential sources of exposure. Public health workers should be appropriately trained to be able to perform all necessary procedures aimed at detecting the sources contaminated with pesticides on the regular basis. Malhat and Nasr conducted a relevant study examining a gas chromatography fitted with a photometric detector as one of the effective methods of assessing water samples for pesticide contamination (1).
The results of the study revealed method sensitivity and recovery (Malhat and Nasr 3). Thelin and Stone also presented an extensive report that illustrates the existing methods for assessing the agricultural pesticide use. The report aims to present valid science information about pesticides use in the country and promote efficient water-resource management (Thelin and Stone 1). Similar studies should be encouraged to provide more valid information about the efficiency of existing methods. Regular examinations of water sources that are at high risk of being contaminated with agricultural pesticides by the specialists can significantly decrease the risks public health problems caused by pesticides exposure.
Providing regular educational activities aimed at increasing the skills needed for appropriate pesticide risk assessment procedures can be regarded as one more method of addressing the discussed issue. Only high-qualified workers of public health institutions can ensure the efficiency of activities involved in the process of examining the water supplies that can be contaminated because of the neglectful use of pesticides in agriculture. Therefore, proper training and upgrading of skills is of vital importance for ensuring the public health specialists’ ability to prevent dangerous exposures.
Educating the society about the negative effects of agricultural pesticide runoff and the health issues it can cause can also contribute to successful dealing with the problem. Promoting the awareness of people about the specifics of the discussed issue should be one of the first priorities of the specialist working on improving public health. The popularization of information revealing the risks related to the careless use of pesticides in agriculture can help to achieve great results in raising the consciousness of people and their willingness to participate in the process of eliminating the risks.
Current Status of Action
European countries present an example of effective dealing with the problem of agricultural pesticide runoff. The countries in this region have adopted the strategy of reducing the use of pesticides on the governmental level. The countries developed strict laws regulating the registration of pesticides and scheduling of their application. Such strategy helps to eliminate the use of very toxic pesticides and prevent their careless use. Environmental tax on pesticides also contributes to successful results as it motivates the farmers to search for alternative solutions able to maintain the sustainability of the business. Promoting the use of alternatives to pesticides in the European countries reduces the level of contamination of water supplies caused by agricultural pesticide runoff. All of the initiatives mentioned above help to reduce the negative effects of overuse of pesticides on public health.
Public health can benefit a lot from a careful investigation of exposures, effects on human health, and current and potential public health actions related to agricultural pesticide runoff.
Anyusheva, Maria, Mark Lamers, Nguyen La, Van Vien Nguyen, and Thilo Streck. “Fate of Pesticides in Combined Paddy Rice–Fish Pond Farming Systems in Northern Vietnam.” Journal of Environmental Quality 41 (2012): 515-525. Print.
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Harnpicharnchai, Kallaya, Naesinee Chaiear, and Lertchai Charerntanyarak. “Residues of Organophosphate Pesticides Used in Vegetable Cultivation in Ambient Air, Surface Water and Soil in Bueng Niamsub District, KhonKaen, Thailand.” The Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health 44.6 (2013): 1088-1097. Print.
Lamers, Mark, Pepijn Schreinemachersm, Joachim Ingwersen, Walaya Sangchan, Christian Grovermann, and Thomas Berger. “Agricultural Pesticide Use in Mountainous Areas of Thailand and Vietnam: Towards Reducing Exposure and Rationalizing Use.” Sustainable Land Use and Rural Development in Southeast Asia: Innovations and Policies for Mountainous Areas. Ed. Holger Fröhlich, Pepijn Schreinemachers, Karl Stahr, and Gerhard Clemens. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2012. 149-173. Print.
Lari, Summaiya, Noor Khan, Kavita Gandhi, Tejal Meshram, and Neeta Thacker. “Comparison of Pesticide Residues in Surface Water and Ground Water of Agriculture Intensive Areas.” Journal of Environmental Health Science & Engineering 12.11 (2014): 1-7. Print.
Malhat, Farag, and Islam Nasr. “Monitoring of Organophosphorus Pesticides Residues in Water from the Nile River Tributaries, Egypt.” American Journal of Water Resources 1.1 (2013): 1-4. Print.
Thelin, Gail, and Wesley Stone. Estimation of annual agricultural pesticide use for counties of the conterminous United States, 1992–2009. 2013. Web.