Pesticides, food

Pesticides, food
Human Health Risk
Ecological Risk
Socioeconomic Risk
Pesticides include any compounds employed to destroy, prevent, or control pests. By
their very nature, these chemicals present some risk of environmental harm. Approximately 600 substances are registered as pesticides, each having different chemical,
physical, and toxicological characteristics. Many of these are used in growing and
producing food crops for human consumption. Food monitoring studies have documented the consistent presence of many different pesticide residuals in foods, and
because of the presence of long lasting pesticides in soils, there are no crops grown
that can be guaranteed completely pesticide free.
What’s at risk?
What are the human health impacts in
New Jersey?
There are national estimates for residue content
in selected foods: pesticides have been found in
about 40% of grain samples, 55% of fruits, and
30% of vegetable samples. Only a small percentage of samples violate established tolerances,
however, and this percentage has been decreasing
over time. While DEP has recently initiated a
pilot program to evaluate food grown in New
Jersey, there are currently no data available to
quantify exposures to residues from food grown
in New Jersey. In addition to the difficulties in
quantifying exposure, health effects associated
with residues have not been systematically
assessed even for particular chemicals. There are
large data gaps hindering a valid assessment of
the impacts that may result from chronic exposure to the myriad of pesticide residues on food.
What are the socioeconomic impacts in
New Jersey?
The socioeconomic TWG estimated impacts
from pesticide exposures from all sources. Using
national estimates, at least $8 million in medical
costs may be expected as a result of increased
childhood cancers and accidental poisonings
related to pesticide exposures. Studies have
shown that most people worry about pesticide
residues in food. Potential loss of biodiversity
may also contribute to an aesthetic impact.
Overall, socioeconomic risks from pesticides are
considered high, but there are significant uncertainties.
What’s being done?
The federal Food Quality Protection Act requires
a reassessment of the underlying risks from
pesticides in food. National efforts are under
way to reevaluate tolerances to reflect residues in
all types of food, to include risks other than
cancer, and to factor in aggregate exposures
from diet, drinking water, and other nonoccupational exposures. Over 9,000 commodity/
pesticide combinations with existing tolerances
will be reassessed by 2006. The limitation and
regulation of the use of pesticides on food
crops minimizes the risks of acute effects or
Final Report of the New Jersey State Comparative Risk Project
The general population is exposed as persistent
pesticide residues continue to be detected in
virtually all types of food products. Because of
their immature systems, infants and children are
more susceptible to the effects of pesticides.
They also consume more food relative to body
weight. Exposure to even trace amounts at
crucial times in fetal or infant development may
disrupt or damage developing hormonal, reproductive, neurological, or immune systems. The
elderly, nursing mothers, and women and men
of childbearing age are also more susceptible.