Mitigating Agrochemicals to Reduce the Risks to Human and Environmental Health

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Agrochemicals (e.g., pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and disinfectants) are used to protect crops and livestock from pests, diseases, and other stressors. As the human population continues to increase, these chemicals play an important role in helping farmers meet demands for food production. Agrochemicals are also used on golf courses, sports fields, parks, and residential lawns and may be used in homes as pest foggers and in pet flea control products. In these ways, agrochemicals are public health tools, protecting people against diseases—like West Nile virus—that are spread by pests. Despite many important uses, agrochemicals may pose significant risks to environmental quality and human health if exposures are too high. Some agrochemicals or their byproducts may linger in the air or soil and can pollute surface and ground water. Farm workers and their families are most susceptible to chemical exposure on the farm. Neighboring rural and urban areas may be exposed to chemicals that can travel long distances through the air, soil, or water. Agrochemical exposure may lead to a variety of human health problems, and these chemicals can contaminate food, degrade habitat, and negatively affect the health of many organisms. Therefore, mitigating unacceptable agrochemical exposure is a high priority, especially in regions where sensitive human populations may be exposed and where species are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

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