Environmental Chemical Hazards of Household Chemicals Essay

There are many chemicals in our homes that can be potential threats both to the human health and environment. It was mentioned in a certain report that the top ten most hazardous household chemicals include air fresheners, ammonia, bleach, carpet and upholstery shampoo, dishwasher detergents, drain cleaner, furniture polish, mold and mildew cleaners, oven cleaners, antibacterial cleaners, laundry room products, and toilet bowl cleaners.

Other substances such as pesticides, flea powders, lice shampoo, car wash and polish, and tar and bug remover are also among the list of hazardous chemicals found at home (Alexander). Among these chemicals, the researcher deems it necessary to understand more about the action of pesticides on human health and environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 75% of US households in 2005 employed the use of at least one pesticide and 80 % of the exposure of people to pesticide occurred indoors.

A pesticide as defined by the EPA is any substance used to prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate any pest. In addition, there are many household products that are considered as pesticides such as insect repellants, rodent poisons, cockroach spray and baits, flea and tick sprays, substances that kill mold and mildew and many more. Exposure of humans to pesticides may result into acute health effects such as skin and respiratory irritation and chronic health effects such as cancer and reproductive effects (Spitzer).

Organophosphate is one of the groups of pesticides in which commonly used insecticides for lawns and gardens belong. An example of an organophosphate is choloropyrifos which is originally registered for the purpose of killing mosquitoes but is now used as an insecticide for grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables and even for ornamental plants. In addition, it is reported to be effective by contact, ingestion, and vapor action to control Coleoptera, Diptera, Homoptera, and Lepidoptera in soil and foliage of citrus, coffee, cotton, maize, sugar beet, and vegetable crops (Aysal et al. . Organophosphates are chosen over other groups of pesticides because they are less persistent in the environment but this group of pesticide has been reported to adversely affect the nervous system.

Also this type of pesticide is known to be neurotoxin which acts on the nervous system of unwanted organisms by interfering with the action of the enzyme, acetylcholinesterase. Among the noted ecological effects of this pesticide include moderate to high toxicity to birds with an oral toxicity of 8. 41 mg/kg in pheasants, 112 mg/kg in mallard ducks, 21. mg/kg in house sparrows, and 32 mg/kg in chickens. It is also noted to be highly toxic among freshwater fishes, aquatic invertebrates, and marine organisms. EPA noted that a little fraction of this pesticide, as low as 0. 01 pounds, may cause fish and invertebrate kill. Choloropyrifos is said also to accumulate at the bottom sediments hence may also present problems to bottom dwellers. Hence, washing away of this pesticide to bodies of water during rainy seasons may pose some potential treats to aquatic organisms. Insects such as honeybees may also be affected by this pesticide.

Choloropyrifos has a half life of 60 to 120 days in soil hence it is considered as moderately occurring in soils but it is considered as unstable in water. Also, it may be regarded as toxic in some plants like lettuce in which it may persist for about 10 to 14 days (Freudenthal). Organophosphates are known to bear some toxic effects to humans. The acute lethality of organophosphates is primarily due to the inhibition of the acetylcholinesterase (AChe), an enzyme essential for cholinergic synaptic transmission in the central and autonomic nervous system and in the nerve endings of striated muscle (Sanchez-Hernandez and Walker).

Numbness, tingling sensations, headache, dizziness, tremor abdominal cramps, respiratory depression, slow heartbeat and nausea may be the associated symptoms observed among humans when there is an inhibition of the AChe. High doses of this pesticide may result into unconsciousness, incontinence, and convulsions or fatality. Hence it can be said that the presence of this pesticide at home needs proper storage to prevent the children from experiencing accidental encounters which ultimately may result into poisoning and eventually to death.

In 2002, there were 50,415 cases of children younger than 6 years old exposed to organophosphates but deaths were not reported. In the entire world, there were 20, 000 cases of pesticide poisoning which lead to death in the same year (Freudenthal). Prolonged exposure to this pesticide which may occur when there is persistent application of this pesticide in lawns or gardens may result into alteration of memory and concentration, disorientation, irritability, confusion, delayed reaction, speech difficulties lose of appetite, weakness and even nightmares.

While choloropyrifos is not significantly noted for teratogenic, mutagenic and adverse reproductive effects, some pesticides which are commonly used in and around homes have some potential treats. Among the pesticides used for the maintenance of ornamental plants which are known to pose some carcinogenic effects include maneb and chlorthalonil (Alexander). As to the other environmental effects of pesticides, contamination of soil and water may occur. Deposition of pesticide in the soil which eventually may lead into leaching down the groundwater level may result into contamination of drinking water wells.

Washing away by rains, may carry the pesticide into streams, rivers or into any nearby body of water which can cause some fish kill and death of other aquatic organisms. Moreover, this may also result into a secondary death, in which thee animal that may feed into the poisoned organism may be poisoned as well. As to the household application of pesticides in lawns or gardens, exposure of pets such as dogs and cats during spray of the pesticide may cause some neurotoxic effects since it has been observed that organophosphates can act as neurotoxin to mammals.

In addition, the use of pesticides has been associated with the killing of non target organisms such as mammals, birds and other insects. Furthermore, pesticides have been noted to cause some mutations into the biochemical make-up of some insects and weeds which make them more resistant to pesticides hence could alter the natural balance of the ecosystem. Some pesticides such as those belonging to the organochlorine group are known for their teratogenic effects affecting organisms that usually thrive in water, which is a phenomenon observed among frogs.

There are number of ways by which the use of chemicals in controlling household pests can be eliminated. The use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) makes use of biological pest controls and employs the use of chemicals at the least level possible or when the pest being controlled have only become economically significant. Alternative methods which may be employed for the control of pests include mechanical controls such as pest traps, physical barriers like caulking and chemical controls such as hormones to confuse the pest, interrupt the developmental process and disrupt the breeding process (Spitzer).

The proliferation of pest in lawns and other parts of the house may also be prevented through a regular cleaning routine. Cleaning or good housekeeping prevents the establishment of pests around the house hence saves the future use of pesticides. As a citizen concerned with the potential threats of pesticide use, some of the actions which may employed include the use of the methods employed by the IPM instead of immediate use of pesticides, regular cleaning of the house and lawn and pioneering lectures or campaigns which will better inform the people about the negative effects of pesticide use.

Urging the appropriate environmental agencies to reassess the amount and safety of the concentration of pesticides used by commercial pesticides applicators may also be done. Among the government agencies and institutions involved in regulating the use of pesticides include Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These agencies are involved in the monitoring and publishing of details about the risk of pesticide use in the different components of the biodiversity.

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