Pesticides, food Human Health Risk M 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 poisoning. 159 Final Report of the New Jersey State Comparative Risk Project STRESSOR SUMMARIES 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.