Impact of synthetic pesticides utilization on humans and the environment: an overview

C.S. Oaya1*, A.M. Malgwi2, M.M. Degri1, A.E. Samaila1

1Department of Agronomy, Federal University of Kashere, P.M.B. 0182 Gombe State, Nigeria
2Department of Crop Protection, Modibbo Adama University of Technology, P.M.B. 2070 Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria

(Manuscript received 12 September 2019; accepted for publication 5 November 2019)

Abstract. Pesticides are chemicals that kill or manage the population of pests. There are many different types of pesticides on the market today, but the most common are herbicides and insecticides, which kill or manage unwanted plants and insects. The benefits of pesticides include increased food production, increased profits for farmers and the prevention of diseases. Although pests consume or harm a large portion of agricultural crops, without the use of pesticides, it is likely that they would consume a higher percentage. More food is produced by farmers, thereby increasing profit. Pesticides also increase farm profits by helping the farmer save money on labor costs. Using pesticides reduces the amount of time required to manually remove weeds and pests from the fields. In addition to saving crops and livestock, pesticides have also had direct benefits to human health. It is estimated that since 1945, the use of pesticides has prevented the deaths of around seven million people by killing pests that carry or transmit diseases. Although there are benefits to the use of pesticides, there have also been many problems associated with their use. Pesticides do not always stay in the location where they are applied. They are mobile in the environment and often move through water, air and soil. The problem with pesticide mobility is that when they travel, the pesticides come in contact with other organisms and can cause harm. Pesticides have also been shown to disrupt the balance of an ecosystem. In many situations when a pesticide is used, it also kills non-pest organisms. This can drastically alter the natural balance of the ecosystem. By removing non-pest organisms, the environment can be changed to favor the pest. In addition to causing harm to wildlife, pesticides that travel from their original location are known to cause harm to humans. Human exposure to pesticides has caused poisonings, the development of cancer and the deaths of between 20000 and 40000 people worldwide each year. Another major problem associated with pesticide use is bioaccumulation and biological magnification. Bioaccumulation is when a substance builds up in the body because the body does not have the proper mechanisms to remove it. Many synthetic pesticides are not able to be broken down. Once they enter the body of an organism, they are permanently stored in the body tissue.