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Pesticides

Home | Bizarre Envirofacts | Cars Are Us | Desertification | Electric Power Generation | Flare Stack Pollution Control | Global Warming | Invasive Plant Species White List | Pesticides

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Pesticide use throughout the world has become as common as the use of other household products. At some point in man's development a change of consciousness came about in which poison became man's friend.

We are now in the era of the organophosphate pesticides. A movie released in the year 2000 entitled The Rock, starring Sean Connery, gives us some factual information and a clue as to the power of organophosphates. At the writing of this article, organophosphate pesticides are being used to combat the West Nile mosquito-borne virus throughout large areas of The United States. Use of this class of pesticide is equally prevalent in many parts of the world due to the aggressive marketing efforts of the petrochemical industry.

What exactly is the problem with organophosphates then? Even the name sounds rather benign. Well, to put it not so simply, cholinesterase inhibitors. We'll discuss them momentarily, but first let's examine the concept of how a pesticide works.

Pesticides are designed to do one of two things, or both, to insects:

1)ATTACK THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM. They shut it down, so the insect can't breathe, sort of the human equivalent of asthma to the 100th power.

2)CAUSE THE NERVE IMPULSES TO FIRE CONTINUOUSLY, a sort of greatly exaggerated equivalent in humans of Parkinson's Disease, epilepsy, Tourette's Syndrome, and other diseases of the nervous system, which are many.

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I believe Rachel Carson, in her monumental publication, Silent Spring, explains it best in saying:

Page 27, par. 7:
"The second major group of insecticides, the alkyl or organic phosphates, are among the most poisonous chemicals in the world. The chief and most obvious hazard attending their use is that of acute poisoning of people applying the sprays or accidentally coming in contact with drifting spray, with vegetation coated by it, or with a discarded container. In Florida, two children found an empty bag and used it to repair a swing. Shortly thereafter both of them died and three of their playmates became ill. The bag had once contained an insecticide called parathion, one of the organic phosphates; tests established death by parathion poisoning."

Page 28, par. 1:
"The origin of these insecticides has a certain ironic significance. Although some of the chemicals themselves organic esters of phosphoric acid had been known for many years, their insecticidal properties remained to be discovered by a German chemist, Gerhard Schrader, in the late 1930s. Almost immediately the German government recognized the value of these same chemicals as new and devastating weapons in man's war against his own kind, and the work on them was declared secret. Some became the deadly nerve gases. Others, of closely allied structure, became insecticides."

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Page 29, par. 5
"Parathion is one of the most widely used of the organic phosphates. It is also one of the most powerful and dangerous. Honeybees become wildly agitated and bellicose on contact with it, perform frantic cleaning movements, and are near death within half an hour. A chemist, thinking to learn by the most direct possible means the dose acutely toxic to human beings, swallowed a minute amount, equivalent to about .00424 ounce. Paralysis followed so instantaneously that he could not reach the antidote he had prepared at hand, and so he died."

Page 30, par.1:
"Yet some 7,000,000 pounds of parathion are now applied to fields and orchards of the United States by hand sprayers, motorized blowers and dusters, and by airplane. The amount used on California farms alone could, according to one medical authority, provide a lethal dose for 5 to 10 times the whole world's population."

Nota Bene (by Douglas Baker): This book was written in 1962. The amount of poisons applied today is much greater than these figures.

Page 30, par. 4:
"Malathion, another of the organic phosphates, is almost as familiar to the public as DDT, being widely used by gardeners, in household insecticides, in mosquito spraying, and in such blanket attacks on insects as the spraying of nearly a million acres of Florida communities for the Mediterranean fruit fly. It is considered the least toxic of this group of chemicals and many people assume they may use it freely and without fear of harm. Commercial advertising encourages this comfortable attitude."

Ms. Carson goes on to say that since every person on Earth now carries within a certain level of these commonly used chemicals, the manifestations are many. The damaging effects of these poisons can be compounded, or "potentiated", to use her word, by other chemicals, including an assortment of insecticides found on our plate in the fruits, vegetables, meat, and drink we consume. Prescription drugs also compound the effects. The liver and kidneys are two of the principal organs damaged by these insecticides. Is it any wonder that there is so great a need for transplants?

So how do we get out of this endless loop? There are many brilliant minds on this planet, and we urgently need their mind power to develop non-toxic solutions to eradicate pests. There are a number of ways in which this can be accomplished without toxicity to humans, such as genetic disruption of the insect's reproductive cycle, pheromone interruptors, stationary devices which duplicate the conditions of the host(meaning us), and which would then utilize various means to render the mosquito sterile, i.e., incapable of reproduction. The author of Enviroglimpses and Healthglimpses is presently developing the aforementioned device.

There are of course, other serious implications to consider, such as the systematic elimination of members of the food chain, such as the mosquito. I suspect not too many hosts will miss its passing, though the effect on the predators of the mosquito will have to be taken into account.