The High Cost of Pesticides
Companies that develop pesticides become committed to marketing them early in development for a number of reasons. First, they must test thousands of new compounds each year, among which only a few make it through the screening process. It usually takes about seven years for a pesticide to be put through the screening process and granted registration by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Naturally, pesticide manufacturers are eager to advertise their products before they appear on the shelves because of their large out-of-pocket expense. For example, in 1987, one company invested approximately $45 million to develop one pesticide that required the screening of at least 20,000 chemical compounds before it could be identified as effective.
D. Pimentel has looked at the cost effectiveness of pesticides in the United States. (3,4) It cost approximately $2.8 billion each year to apply pesticides that prevent pest losses totaling about $10.9 billion a year. Hence, there is a return of about three dollars for every dollar invested in pesticide application. The indirect costs of pesticides are estimated to be about $1 billion and stem from human exposure to pesticides, an increase in the number of pests when the chemicals kill off the natural predator, pest resistance, pollination problems from destroying the bee population, and other problems. Pimentel's estimate for the cost of cancers in the United States is about $125 million per year. About $58 million a year is ascribed to human pesticide poisonings.
Pesticides enter your body by inhalation, absorption through the skin, or ingestion. And unlike industrial chemicals, which are used in a very controlled manner, pesticides are sprayed, powdered, or dropped as pellets or granules in and around places where the general public may walk or play. In fact, pesticide residues are commonly found in human tissue in almost everyone in the United States, averaging six parts per million (ppm) in fatty tissue. (5) Pesticide residues have been found in breast milk and cow milk and have been found to cross the placental barrier to the human fetus. (6)
The Dangers of Pesticide Use
Because pesticides are soluble in oil or fatty tissue like that of the human breast and its milk, it is theorized that pesticides may be a contributing factor to breast cancer. (7) Incidental findings in experiments involving exposure of rats and mice to pesticides show a significant increase in breast cancer in the exposed animal group. Women are at greater risk than men when exposed to the same amount of pesticides because the Allowable Daily Intake for pes-ticides as determined by the federal government is calculated on the basis of a 70-kilogram man, not a 50-kilogram woman with larger breast tissue.
Some cases of Parkinson's disease as well as other neurological diseases have been linked to various pesticides. (8) Hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and abnormal blood cholesterol and vitamin A levels have been linked to pesticide exposure. Pesticides are also associated with allergies, liver disease, skin diseases, fertility problems as manifested by changes in the egg and sperm (teratogenicity), and changes in the RNA and DNA (mutagenicity). Regular spraying of pesticides in homes and gardens was linked with the development of acute leukemia in young children in the Los Angeles area. (9) Other cancers have also been associated with pesticides. (10,11)