(Beyond Pesticides, February 1, 2023) A study published in Environment International concurs with previous reports that agricultural pesticide treatment can contaminate nearby residential areas, resulting in indoor chemical exposure via concentrations of insecticide active ingredients in house dust.
Pesticide contamination in homes has ties to higher levels of pesticide residue in both human and pet bodies. Some pesticides, like organochlorine compounds, have poor elimination from the body, leading to accumulation over a lifetime. Pesticide exposure can heighten risks of various cancers (i.e., prostate, hepatic, liver, etc.), mental health problems (i.e., depression), respiratory illnesses (asthma), endocrine disruption, and many other pesticide-induced diseases. Extensive pesticide use can predispose human pathogenic to antibiotic resistance, bolstering bacterial virulence. Studies like this are concerning as it reveals that individuals do not have to be in close contact (e.g., chemical manufacturers, farmworker, gardener, custodian, etc.) with pesticides for risky, health-harming exposures to occur.
Despite stricter regulations and technological changes beginning to decrease air pollution from cars and other vehicles, scientists are finding that the use of pesticides and other household chemicals represents an increasing proportion of U.S. smog-forming air pollution. Personal care products, cleaning agents, perfumes, paints, printing ink, and pesticides warrant greater attention from regulators for their ability to form toxic fumes that can eventually make their way indoors. Additionally, this research underscores the critical need for homeowners, farmers, and other chemical manufacturers to shift away from chemical use as a line of defense against further indoor air pollution to safeguard children’s health.
The study notes, “Our findings demonstrated the utility of GIS-based metrics for quantifying potential exposure to fugitive insecticide emissions from cultivated agriculture but indicated that associations with measured levels of insecticides in homes varies depending on buffer size (i.e., defined proximity) and the time elapsed between application and house dust collection.”
Researchers collected carpet-dust samples from 598 California homes to measure the concentration of nine insecticides: carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin, diazinon, permethrin, azinphos-methyl, cyfluthrin, malathion, and phosmet. To compare the buffer zone between residential and agricultural areas, researched using the California Pesticide Use Reporting (CPUR) database, researchers estimated pesticide use within the buffer zone of agricultural and residential areas (buffer zone radii = 0.5 to 4 km[kilometer]). During the 30-, 60-, 180-, and 365-day periods, researchers evaluate the relationship between the density of pesticide use and the presence of pesticide dust concentration. Chlorpyrifos applications within one km to four km buffer results in one to two times higher dust concentrations during the 60 and 365-day metric, while carbaryl uses within two to four km of homes 3- to 7-times higher dust concentrations during day 60. For 60-day metrics, diazinon concentrations are two times higher for household dust within the two km buffer and within four km on windy days. Cyfluthrin, phosmet, and azinphos-methyl applications within 4 km have 2-, 6-, and 3-fold higher odds of detection in household dust, respectively.
Although chemical dependency in agriculture is contributing to air pollution, measurements drastically underestimate the impact on air pollution. For instance, nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution, usually associated with energy and combustion, is a significant contributor to air pollution through the use of fertilizer on crop fields. Additionally, structural fumigants like sulfuryl fluoride, used for insect (i.e., termites, bedbugs, cockroaches, etc.) fumigation treatments, increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while further increasing air pollution. Pesticides can drift from treatment sites to non-target areas like residential areas, indirectly exposing humans, animals, and plants to varying concentrations of chemicals. Scientific studies find significant pesticide residues inside homes due to drift through the air and chemicals tracked in, where they contaminate air, dust, surfaces, and carpets. Although higher levels of pesticides in dust samples taken from homes close to agricultural activities demonstrates these chemicals drift and carry indoors, general pesticide uses in and around the home can also allow chemicals to remain indoors.
Additionally, regular household chemical use (e.g., disinfectants, insect repellants, rodent repellants) can exacerbate the levels of chemical toxins in indoor air, further decreasing quality. Household pesticide use over the last decade has generally shifted away from the use of older organophosphate chemistries to the use of synthetic pyrethroid insecticides. But this switch has not resulted in safer exposures; a growing body of literature is finding that synthetic pyrethroids can cause a range of adverse health impacts, particularly in children. Pesticide exposure at a young age can have far-reaching effects. In addition to motor skills and learning development, young boys exposed to synthetic pyrethroids are more likely to experience early onset of puberty.
Chronic inhalation of agriculture-related dust in occupational areas and in residential areas increases the incidence of airway inflammatory diseases, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, and COPD. The particulates in dust play a part in disease development, in addition to various microbiota that may be part of a dusty agricultural environment. Pesticide exposures can alter the gut microbiome, which mediates a significant portion of human immune response. Alterations in microbial composition and mechanism processes involved in respiratory pathologies disrupt the human microbiome (known as dysbiosis), exacerbating diseases like asthma and other respiratory diseases. Currently, there is a lack of treatment that can reverse respiratory diseases arising from chronic agricultural dust exposures in and outside the home. The study concludes, “Our findings suggest inclusion of wind enhanced prediction for some, but not all insecticides studied. Taken together, our results imply that GIS-based exposure metrics used in epidemiologic studies should be tailored to the fate and transport characteristics of each insecticide.”
Current laws do not adequately protect local residents from toxic pesticide exposure from farms, mosquito control operations, and other sources of chemical exposure. Oftentimes, it can be difficult for individuals to obtain basic information about the pesticides sprayed near their homes and schools their children attend. As a respiratory pandemic continues to spread (COVID-19), it is critical that individuals avoid environmental factors that weaken individual immune systems, if possible. While personal protective measures are important, residents throughout the U.S. are encouraged to engage with their elected officials to rein in toxic pesticide use in their community. Through collective action, we can stop the regular use of hazardous, lung-harming pesticides in homes, on farms, and in mosquito management. Reach out to Beyond Pesticides at [email protected] or 202-543-5450 for assistance with your local advocacy efforts.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: Environment International
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