Organophosphates: What You Don't Know Can Indeed Hurt You
Organophosphates are a group of pesticides that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), were first developed during the early 19th century. However, their poisonous effects werenโ€t widely known until the 1930s when the German military developed them for use in World War II as a neurotoxin.
Organophosphate pesticides account for 38 percent of all pesticides in use throughout the world. They kill insects by disrupting their brains and nervous systems -- but they can also harm the brains and nervous systems of animals and humans (which is why it is used in nerve gas and other weapons), says the Illinois Department of Public Health.
People of all ages are at risk of pesticide dangers, but children appear to be particularly vulnerable.
These chemicals work by stopping a key enzyme in the nervous system (cholinesterase) from working. When this happens, a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine can no longer be properly controlled, which results in nerve impulses remaining active for longer than they should. This over-stimulates the nerves and muscles and results in symptoms like weakness and muscle paralysis, says the EPA.
In 2001, organophosphates accounted for about half of the insecticides sold in the United States, and about 60 million pounds are used on crops each year. Some of the more well-known organophosphates include diazinon, disulfoton, azinphos-methyl and fonofos.
Diazinon, which was sold in the United States for 48 years, was once the most widely used ingredient in U.S. lawn and garden sprays, with close to 15 million pounds being sold annually. However, due to safety concerns, the EPA ordered that the chemical no longer be used for indoor use by March 2001, and no longer be used for lawn and garden use by June 2003.
Another organophosphate, chlorpyrifos (Dursban), was phased out in 2000 after studies showed children could be particularly vulnerable to harm from exposure.
Pesticides Found in People
A 2003 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, tested thousands of people for exposure to 116 chemicals, 34 of which were pesticides. Of the 34 pesticides, which included organochlorines, organophosphates and carbamates, 19 were detected in the blood or urine of the study participants.
Health Dangers of Organophosphates
These chemicals, which are used as insecticides in homes and offices and for lawns and gardens, in flea treatments for pets and are sprayed onto agricultural crops, have been linked with cancer, decreasing male fertility and Parkinson's disease. However, no one really know for sure what harm low, long-term exposure to such chemicals could cause. What is known, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, is that organophosphate poisoning could result in the following issues.
Possible Health Effects of Organophosphates
Shortness of breath
Where are They Found?
If youโ€d like to limit your exposure to organophosphates, be aware that common sources of these pesticides include:
Animal growth promoters
Flea treatments for pets
Household and garden pesticides
Lice/Nit treatments (rather than applying a pesticide to your childโ€s scalp to kill lice, opt for the 100-percent safe Lice B Gone--clinically proven to safely remove lice and nits without dangerous pesticides or chemicals)
Pesticides for crops--particularly soft fruit, vegetables and grain products
Stablilizers in lubricating and hydraulic oils
Wood infestation treatments
Keep Your Pets Safe From Pesticides Too: Avoid Commercial Flea Treatments!
Flea and tick control products can be extremely hazardous, some containing highly noxious nerve gas. Still, these products have approval to be sold because the claim is that the amount of such hazards is minimal in the products. Flea collars and tags are literally soaked in chemical pesticides, emitting a continuous toxic cloud into the air, not only for your pet, but you and your family.
Following are some tips to keep pesticides, including organophosphates, away from you and your family as much as possible:
Buy certified organic fruits, vegetables and meats (be sure to wash produce, particularly commercially grown produce, thoroughly before eating using a diluted soap solution)
Avoid the use of toxic pesticides in your home and yard (opt for natural pesticides that you can find in your local health food store instead)
Don't use pesticides for aesthetic purposes like killing dandelions in your lawn
Don't use chemical bug repellants, flea treatments or lice shampoos