What are pesticides? #2

As a previous post explained, pesticides are chemicals formulated to kill living organisms. They are usually intended to kill insects, rodents, weeds, or fungi. But, these were not their original targets.

During World War II, many scientists built their careers on inventing weapons to harm enemy combatants. The most famous of these weapons was the nuclear bomb, but many chemical weapons were also devised during this period.

After the war, as has been documented by Naomi Oreskes and other journalists, some of these scientists went on to deny the link between smoking and cancer, the existence of human-caused climate change, and other serious public health issues. Meanwhile, others wondered what to do with chemical weapons during peacetime.

Soon, they hit on an idea: reformulate chemicals intended to kill humans, and market them as products for killing household pests.

Contrary to common belief, the US government does not require pesticides to be proven safe before they can be sold to the public. In fact, many of the components of pesticides have not been tested at all for their effects on human health. Many of those that have been tested have been found to cause cancer.

It should not be surprising that chemicals developed to harm humans still harm humans when they are reformulated into a watered-down version. Still, most people do not follow safety precautions – such as wearing protective clothing and not spraying more than needed – when using pesticides.

By using pesticides carefully, or by not using them at all, we can protect our own health and that of our neighbors.

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What are pesticides? #2

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