From lawns to lunch, water to wind, pesticides are lurking everywhere, yet we can't often see or smell them. In fact, they're most often completely invisible. But the threat is ever-present. The EPA estimates that more than 5 billion pounds of pesticides are applied in the U.S. every year on agricultural crops, parks and public land, home gardens and lawns. And the health risks continue to increase.
Research has connected pesticide exposure with neurological disorders, birth defects, fertility issues, cancer, obesity and diabetes. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that children between ages six and eleven have more than four times the acceptable levels of organophosphates in their bodies. The common pesticide has been connected with behavioral issues, lower IQ levels and lower birth weight, and exposure at a young age has the potential to cause life-long damage to its victims as well as future generations.
So, how do we know if we're at risk for pesticide poisoning? In all actuality, we can't really measure the low-dose daily exposure, as most of us are already routinely at risk (especially if eating non-organic food). But acute exposure can be just the beginning of a lifetime of adverse health effects. Definitely consider checking in with your physician if you experience the sudden onset of any of the following symptoms:
1. Sudden but persistent headache: If you're not one to regularly experience headaches and your routine hasn't changed recently, you may have eaten or inhaled a hefty dose of a pesticide. Drink plenty of liquid and be on the lookout for other symptoms including fever, nausea and vomiting.
2. Intense muscle twitching or seizures: A seizure in anyone without a pre-existing condition could be a serious indicator of major pesticide exposure. Seizures or muscle twitching are most likely the result of inhaling large amounts of pesticides, which can be lethal. Don't wait to see your regular doctor in this case; rush straight to the emergency room.
3. Excessive sweating: We rarely sweat unless triggered by physical activity, nerves or major hormonal changes. Random sweating can be a sign that you've just been rolling in some freshly sprayed grass, inhaled a big waft of something in the air, or ate a heavily sprayed crop like apples, celery or strawberries.
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Image: Forest Service - Northern Region