Exposure to Pesticides
There are at least 600 different pesticides in use and 45,000 to 50,000 pesticide formulations that may include one or more pesticides as active ingredients (a.i.). Pesticides consist of a wide variety of chemical compounds ranging from inorganic substances such as elemental sulfur and chromated copper arsenate, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as methyl bromide and paradichlorobenzene, semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) such as diazinon and chlorpyrifos, and nonvolatile organic compounds (NVOCs) such as 2,4-D and permethrin. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is responsible for registering new pesticides and reviewing existing pesticides for re-registration to avoid unreasonable risks to human health and the environment. Potential human risks include acute (short-term) reactions, such as toxic poisoning or skin and eye irritation, as well as possible chronic (long-term) effects such as cancer, birth defects, or reproductive system disorders. The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) sets tolerances for all pesticides residues in food based on a “reasonable certainty” that they will do “no harm” to human health, but it also requires the USEPA to consider all routes of exposure when setting these tolerances.