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A pesticide is any substance or a mixture of more than one substance that is intended to be used for prevention or destruction of any pest. They can be biological or chemical in nature. Examples of pesticides include disinfectants and antimicrobials.
For the last one hundred years California has regulated the use of pesticides. Well established comprehensive bodies of law that control every aspect of pesticide use and sale have evolved within this span of time. The first regulatory body for pest control was established in 1901 and towards 1960 a modern form of regulatory laws which are science based come into use. Before the Second World War regulation of pesticides was given a low priority at both federal and state levels.
Though few forms of pesticides were used at that time, there was little concern about their long time effects on environment and health. In the early 20th century the focus of regulating pesticide use was to protect the users from fraud by ensuring that they were of the right quality. In 1901, the first Californian pesticide law charged the director of Agricultural Experimental station with ensuring the quality of Paris green, arsenic based chemical pesticide. In 1910 the federal insecticide act was passed by the congress and it was aimed at protecting the consumers from infective products but did not contain federal requirements and any significant standards. Parallel legislation of California that was concerned with mislabeling, adulteration and pesticide registration was formed in 1911 and it was referred to as the state insecticide and fungicide act of 1911. In 1921 another act referred to as an economic poison act was formed and it was concerned with transferring the responsibility of registering pesticide to the California department of agriculture and expanded the CDA`s authority beyond insecticides and fungicides. At this time pesticide was given synonym economic poison and this was reversed to pesticide by legislation that came to existence in 1991. To put teeth to the 1921 provision, an amendment was done in 1929 to give CDA authority to determine the effectiveness and safety of the pesticides to the vegetation practically. As from1920`s pesticide residues on food emerged to be a serious concern.
Pesticide use in California is one of the major causes of water pollution, soil contamination, reduced biodiversity and persistent organic pollutants to the environment. The negative environmental impacts on the environment are results of large quantity of spraying of insecticides and herbicides reaching non target air, species, water, and soil. The pesticide drift occurred when the pesticide particles that are suspended in air are carried away by wind to other areas and causing contaminating. They also reduce biodiversity by lowering soil quality, reducing nitrogen fixation processes and reducing the number of pollinators such as birds.
In California Pesticides use is considered to be very dangerous to food consumers after use, to farm workers during and after use and to people standing close to the site of manufacture. A major problem associated with the effects of a low dose pesticide exposure is the uncertainty regarding long term effects, and inadequate surveillance system leading to the data gaps.
Although the imperial CA, is largely desert, it is largely an agricultural based county due to extensive irrigation schemes in practice. Some of the agricultural products the county produces are vegetables, fruits, nut and fiber.
Due to reduced agricultural production that results from the destructive nature of pests and diseases, use of pesticides has been widely adopted in the imperial county. Some of the pesticides in use since 1993 to date are bactericides, fumigants and selected insecticides. In control of plant diseases, the farmers have rapidly adopted the use of convectional compounds and reduced the use of biocontrol methods. In case studies carried out in California it has been established that agricultural lands have helped in preserving biological diversity, soil systems, water systems and landscape. This has been reversed by the extensive farming taking place in the county. When insecticides and herbicides are sprayed, over 90 percent reach destinations other than the targeted areas. The areas include air, water, food and bottom sediments. When it escapes from the production sites and tanks, pesticides contaminate land and water. It also result into contamination also occurs when the pesticides run off from the fields during spraying in the air and into water to kill algae The amount of the pesticides that migrates to area that it is not intended to reach depend on the chemical properties of specific type of pesticides, its` soil binding properties, its` vapor pressure, its` solubility in water and its` ability to resist breaking over time. Another negative effect that use of pesticide in CA is associated with is depletion of ozone layer which results into global warming that further result into emission of harmful ultraviolet rays to the environment. Since river Colorado is the major river that is used for irrigation in the imperial CA, aquatic life has been adversely affected by an attempt to eradicate grasshopper using canabryl and Malathion pesticides. This has led to reduced population of squaw and bony fish. Other effects of the use of pesticides in California are excessive growth of algae and eutrophication of the Salton Sea. This results from external loading of phosphorous (p) from agricultural surface discharge.
Crop pesticides used in the imperial county California has contributed to health problems such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, prostrate cancer and multiple myeloma. This has been revealed following studies involving farmers with an intention to determine effects of occupational health exposure to them. Therefore there has been increased use of organophosphate pesticides than organochlorine pesticides because they are less damaging to thee environment though they still cause health problems such as headache, miscarriage, diabetes, abdominal pain vomiting, eye problems, skin problems and nausea.
There are concerns that some of the pesticides used to control pests on food crops have a potential to cause harm or rather health problems to consumers in the county. These pesticides tend to remain in soil, water or food for along period of time without getting broken down. Since strawberries and tomatoes are the two crops associated with the most intensive use of fumigants due to their vulnerability to pest attacks. Therefore a lot of pesticides are used in control of the pests which further contribute to the environmental and health effects associated with the use. In 2003, 3.7 million pounds of metam sodium were used to protect tomatoes from pests and it is thought that it was probably translated to the negative effects associated with the use of the pesticides as witnessed in the county.
Some members of the public living in the imperial county have been contaminated as a result of the pesticides use. The exposure routes were most probably the pesticide drifts and the most susceptible group of population to the harmful effects such as brain cancer and leukemia were the children. Other commonly reported cases of negative effects of pesticides exposure in the state was the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Despite the negative effects associated with the use of crop pesticides in California, pesticides have contributed towards human health, environment and agricultural productivity. Farmers have benefited from the use of pesticides in California through protection of their agricultural produce and crops from damage by pests and therefore high quality and sustainable production is achieved hence improved food security. Another benefit of the pesticides to the farmers in the county is their ability to grow more crops per unit area with less tillage and alsoconservation of natural recourses and soil prevention. Lastly other benefits that the Californians have derived from pesticide use include sustainable income that could have been hindered by the effects of pests on farm produce, protection of property from damage, protection from diseases and reduced intensity of labor as was witnessed before.
Though crop pesticide use has improved the lives of California population in terms of improved food security and income, it has negative effects on environment and human health and therefore more effective regulations and policies should be formulated to protect the environment and the lives.