Pesticides in your drinking water

What are pesticides?

Pesticides are chemicals used in agricultural and public health settings to control animal and plant infestation. Pesticides can be classified according to their intended use (e.g herbicide, fumigant, fungicide) as well as their chemical class (e.g organophosphorus, organochlorine, carbamate, chlorophenoxy compounds). Normally, pesticides are applied on fruit orchards, farms, residential lawns and golf courses. Different kinds of pesticides are used inside houses and other buildings.

The presence of pesticides in drinking water as well as their impact on the health of humans is a rising cause for concern for those living in agricultural areas where 95 percent of the population depends on underground water sources for drinking water.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) examined water selected from nine rivers, which serve as a source for drinking water and found the presence of some pesticides in drinking water supplies after being treated in community water facilities.

How do Pesticides get into our drinking water?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, farmers in the United States apply around 200 to 250 million pounds of pesticides to their fields every year. Pesticides that aren't broken down by sunlight or absorbed by crops either:

  • Get accumulated in the soil and then gradually percolate down into groundwater supplies.
  • Are washed away by rainfall or irrigation and enter waterways, polluting surface waters like rivers, lakes and streams.

What are the Health Effects of Pesticides on Humans?

Pesticides found in drinking water supplies normally occur in trace levels or low concentrations. Long term exposure to a relatively low concentration of pesticides in drinking water can lead to chronic health problems in humans.

Pesticides can enter our bodies through drinking water as well as through our lungs and skin. Health officials have divided the effects of pesticides on our health into two categories:
  • Short-term exposure or acute toxicity, which includes dizziness, headaches, upset stomach, intestinal distress, convulsions, heart attacks and muscle spasms.
  • Long-term exposure or chronic toxicity is still being determined. But, there’s evidence that long-term exposure to pesticides might lead to many kinds of cancer as well as genetic mutations and birth defects.

How to find out if there are Pesticides in your Drinking Water?

Pesticides in underground water supplies have become a national concern since around 50 percent of the population in the United States gets drinking water from underground supply sources. If the source of your drinking supply is a private well, it is always recommended that you have the water screened for the presence of contaminants once every two years. Under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) regulations, groundwater supplies are monitored for pesticides contamination. Moreover, you can contact your health department or county water commission to obtain a list of certified labs in your area that will test for contaminants.


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