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      How Safe is Your Drinking Water?  >  Contaminants Resulting from Agriculture or Industry  >  Herbicides and Insecticides - History & Occurrence

Herbicides and Insecticides - History & Occurrence

It is a fact of life that human beings must eat in order to survive. This need for food initiated the development and spread of agriculture across the planet. As agricultural methods were refined and sedentary societies began to flourish, humanity began to take more control over the environment. Rather than retaining their previous standing as powerless pawns to natural cycles, people could now modify the environment in both useful, and, in the last century, potentially harmful ways.

As technology and agricultural methods have developed, the chemical industry has fed the spiral of the ever increasing quantity and quality of agricultural goods by supplying the chemical tools known as pesticides. The beneficial effects of using these chemicals (evident in the bountiful supply of blemish-free fruits and vegetables) have led to high consumer demand for quality agricultural products. This high demand necessitates the ever increasing use of pesticides. Unfortunately, pesticides can often move into the air and water resources where they can have detrimental effects on humans and other non-targets.

Pesticides include two classes of chemicals, insecticides and herbicides. Insecticides are more commonly known and feared for adverse effects, but herbicides are the larger threat due to their higher concentration in water supplies (Gustafson, 1993). The threat of pesticides in drinking water varies, depending upon where one lives and upon what source of drinking water one uses. Deep groundwater wells are at less risk than shallow wells. Also, a large, actively growing crop is able to use most, if not all, of the water in the soil, thus greatly reducing the level of pesticide chemicals in drinking water sources. In areas with smaller crop distribution, pesticides will be more prevalent in the water.

The next page provides more information on the specific pesticide chemicals in water and their specific adverse health effects.

Previous Page    Next page
How Safe is Your Drinking Water?
Introduction - The Value of Drinking Water
Groundwater and Surface Water
Herbicides and Insecticides - History & Occurrence
Herbicides and Insecticides - Specific Chemicals and Health Effects
Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)
Chlorine Byproducts
Fluoride - Recent Discoveries
Fluoride - Adverse Health Effects
Mercury and Arsenic
Bacteria and Viruses
Human and Animal Feces
Conclusion - The Importance of Drinking Filtered Water
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