Could Pesticides Be Even Worse When it's Warmer?


spraying-pesticides-squareThe Center for Environmental Health and five other groups – Sierra Club, NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network – are urging the EPA take climate change into account when regulating pesticides. Scientists have long warned that changing climate conditions could affect the environmental and health threats from these toxic farm poisons.

One primary issue is that farmers may increasingly depend on pesticides as the planet warms. According to a recent study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a warming climate could lead to increases in crop pests and disease problems, resulting in increases in pesticide applications. The study also noted that patterns of drought followed by heavy rains could greatly increase runoff of farm poisons throughout the environment (and in fact, recent research has already documented the runoff of hundreds of pounds of pesticides from farmland into streams and wetlands following a hard rain).

The letter also warns that the fate of airborne pesticides will also be altered with climate change. With warmer air, pesticides can become volatile and harmful to health more quickly, and will disperse on dust (which is then tracked by people and windblown) more heavily. CEH and the other groups also note that already fragile ecosystems will face more and new stresses with climate change, and that these stresses environments will be more susceptible to harm from toxic pesticides.

For more, see the letter to EPA, which includes background and recommendations to the agency.