Pesticides are the only toxic substances released intentionally into our environment to kill living things. This includes substances that kill weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), fungus (fungicides), rodents (rodenticides), and others.The use of toxic pesticides to manage pest problems has become a common practice around the world. Pesticides are used almost everywhere.
Hazards of pesticides
If the credits of pesticides include enhanced economic potential in terms of increased production of food and fibre, and amelioration of vector-borne diseases, then their debits have resulted in serious health implications to man and his environment. There is now overwhelming evidence that some of these chemicals do pose a potential risk to humans and other life forms and unwanted side effects to the environment.
No segment of the population is completely protected against exposure to pesticides and the potentially serious health effects, though a disproportionate burden, is shouldered by the people of developing countries and by high risk groups in each country (WHO, 1990). The world-wide deaths and chronic diseases due to pesticide poisoning number about 1 million per year
Impact on environment
Pesticides can contaminate soil, water, turf, and other vegetation. In addition to killing insects or weeds, pesticides can be toxic to a host of other organisms including birds, fish, beneficial insects, and non-target plants. Insecticides are generally the most acutely toxic class of pesticides, but herbicides can also pose risks to non-target organisms.
Surface water contamination
Pesticides can reach surface water through runoff from treated plants and soil. Contamination of water by pesticides is widespread. Groundwater pollution due to pesticides is also a worldwide problem. According to the USGS, at least 143 different pesticides and 21 transformation products have been found in ground water, including pesticides from every major chemical class.
Effect on soil fertility (beneficial soil microorganisms)
Heavy treatment of soil with pesticides can cause populations of beneficial soil microorganisms to decline. According to the soil scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham, “If we lose both bacteria and fungi, then the soil degrades. Overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides have effects on the soil organisms that are similar to human overuse of antibiotics.