Synthetic Pesticides Do Significant Harm;
Organics Are A Positive Solution


Each year an estimated 911 million pounds of synthetic pesticides are applied to conventional agricultural crops throughout the U.S. (Environmental Protection Agency's 1994-95 report Conventional Pesticides Applied to Agricultural Crops)

Northern California's Sonoma and Mendocino Counties used about a million pounds of synthetic pesticides each in 1995, and Napa County used about half a million. (Source: County Agricultural Commissioners)

This does not include the millions of pounds of toxic pesticides used in our homes, schools, roadways, workplaces, public buildings, roadways, and parks.

These harmful pesticides then go into our shared earth, air, water, and food.


By age five, millions of children have ingested up to 35% of their entire lifetime dose of some carcinogenic pesticides, just from their food alone. (National Campaign for Pesticide Policy Reform)

Only 1% of all imported fruits and vegetables are tested by the Food and Drug Administration for illegal pesticide residues. (The U.S. General Accounting Office)

More than 45 million Americans used drinking water that was polluted with unsafe levels of pesticides, toxic chemicals, parasites, lead and other chemicals. (Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Working Group and the Environmental Information Center, 1996. Reported by the OTA.)

An Environmental Working Group (EWG) study found weed killers in the tap water of 28 of the 29 cities tested. (OTA)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that pesticides contaminate ground water in 38 states, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the country's population. Organic growers and processors use practices that eliminate polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, and thus protect and conserve precious water resources. (OTA)

The number of U.S. lakes and rivers with fish considered dangerous to eat jumped 26% from 1995 to 1996. (EPA)

Nearly every U.S. woman has pesticides, dioxins, and PCBs in her breast milk. DDT levels commonly found in breast milk would be forbidden if found in cow's milk. DDT in the body has been shown strongly correlate with increased breast cancer. These harmful chemicals can also be passed to children through breast milk and in the womb.

It is estimated that worldwide there are 1 million human pesticide poisonings each year, with about 20,000 deaths. In the U.S. 67,000 nonfatal pesticide poisonings are reported each year.
(This is estimated to be far less than the real total - because our world is so permeated with (unlabelled) poisons that it's hard to notice just one exposure - because doctors are not trained in pesticide exposure diagnosis - and because there is almost no reporting system for most types of exposure. )



Pesticides have been estimated to conservatively cost the U.S. $8 billion a year in indirect costs, including harm to human health, water contamination, and deaths of pollinators, beneficial natural predators, fish, and birds. (Entymologist David Pimentel, Bioscience Vol. 42. No. 10, in a well-documented study) For more information on this, see our page on The True Costs of Pesticide Use. Other costs include loss of wildlife habitat, soil erosion, and the cost of the disposal and cleanup of hazardous wastes generated by pesticide manufacturing. (OTA)

Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Now, the EPA considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides, and 30% of all insecticides as potentially cancer-causing. (OTA)

The International Agency for Research on Cancers (IARC) concludes that at least 80% of all cancer is attributable to environmental influences. 70% of the women who get breast cancer have none of the identified hereditary, biological, or behavioral risk factors.

"Breast cancer rates have increased from 1 in 20 women to 1 in 8 in the past 40 years." (NCAMP) Is it really just a coincidence that this has happened during the same period in which the global environment was contaminated with trillions of pounds of industrial, toxic synthetic carcinogenic chemicals?? Is it really surprising to consider that carcinogens are being shown as a major cause of cancer...?

More than one million Americans will learn that they have cancer this year; half a million will die from it. Prostate cancer maims and kills men at about the same rate as breast cancer and is the number one cancer to strike U.S. men. Cancer may cost this country as much as $39 billion each year in lost production and income, medical expenses, and research resources.

What would it mean to our hearts, our lives, our health costs, our political decisions, and our relationships if we could significantly reduce the financial and emotional costs of cancer? And not with some new very expensive drug or procedure with scarring side effects that requires us to hock our house, harms key elements of our daily lives, and often only delays death. But by seeing and stopping the cause at the source! 

What good news! To not just be afraid of cancer or in pain from its effects, but to see its true cause and take constructive, useful action in our lives and communities to stop cancer from even starting in the first place!


Many studies have shown pesticide and other toxic exposure linked with significantly increased cancer, birth defects, and diseases of the reproductive, immune, and neurological systems. This has been shown in home use (including with children and pets), occupational use (farmers, farm workers, exterminators, and workers in manufacturing plants), and people living near farms. For instance:

* One study found that, if a lawn were treated with pesticides, children under 14 had four times the normal risk of connective tissue disorders. (New Scientist).

* Pet dogs exposed to the weed killer 2,4 D die of cancer at twice the normal rates - especially from malignant lymphomas and non-Hodgkins lymphomas. (Non-Hodgkins lymphomas have been the second fastest-growing cancer in humans in the U.S. during the past 15 years. Each year, 600 million pounds of 2,4D are used by American homeowners and farmers.)

* A National Academy of Sciences report estimated that pesticides in food alone could cause 20,000 added camcer cases each year in America. That's 1.4 million added cancer cases during an average lifetime (70 years). This is a conservative estiamte that doesn't include cancer from the many other exposure routes. Think of the emotional and financial costs of one case of cancer. Avoiding it entirely is true prevention.

*Numerous studies have shown a correlation between pesticide exposure and Parkinson's Disease (PD). For instance, a recent study showed that PD patients were twice as likely to have been exposed to in-house inseciticides than those without the disease. PD is a neurodegenerative disease that makes everyday tasks like buttoning a shirt become impossible. More than 1 million Americans currently have it, mkaing it the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder in the U.S., after Alzeimer's.

* Farmers are generally healthier than the population, having higher physical activity and lower mortality from heart disease and some cancers. But they have a significantly higher risk of cancers that are commonly associated with pesticide exposure, such as Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, leukemia, and malignant lymphoma. The studies name pesticides as one of the likely reasons for this increase. And other studies have shown that those farmers using higher amounts of pesticides have are more likely to get these cancers.

For more information on cancer rates - and cancer's enormous costs to us each year - see our page Cancer Costs. Cancer is one of many diseases demonstrated to be caused and promoted by synthetic pesticides and other human-created toxics. Reducing our huge exposure to cancer-causing substances is a great way to reduce our risk of getting cancer!

According to a 1997 study, up to 14% of all occupational injuries in the agricultural sector and 10% of all fatal injuries can be attributed to pesticides. (International Labor Organization)

Field workers on conventional farms are directly exposed to pesticides, and thus are the most vulnerable to direct illness from them. Each year, 300,000 farmworkers are estimated made ill by pesticides in the U.S., including whole crews of workers. (UFW)  Workers' children are twice as likely to be born with deformed limbs.

Each year, an estimated 67 million wild birds are killed from pesticides, directly and from the elimination of their food sources (birds naturally eat bugs and keep them under control!). An estimated 6-14 million fish are killed from pesticides each year. These figures are likely very low. Also killed are honey bees, other natural pollinators like butterflies, and domestic animals (livestock and pets). (Pimentel)

These are just the most obvious symptoms of the harm we are doing with toxics - to ourselves, each other, other precious species on this earth, and the ecosystems that support our ability to live on this planet at all!



By eliminating harmful pesticides and other chemical inputs from their practices, organic farms eliminate the harm these toxics do to farmers, farmworkers, neighbors, consumers, water supplies, crop pollinators, beneficial natural predators, pets, wildlife, and ecosystems.

The USDA predicts that by the year 2000, half of U.S. farm production will come from only 1% of farms. Organic farming may be one of the few survival tactics left for the family farm and rural communities. Many organic farms are independently owned and operated and have less than 100 acres. (OTA)

Thankfully, we have options - let's use and (joyfully) support them!


Document (c) Community Action Publications, 1998 - 2006. All rights reserved.



Information courtesy of:

"Information Empowering Action for a Healthier World"


We hope this information (and our work) is valuable to you,
and supports the health and well-being of yourself,
your family, our community, and our world.
If it is, please let us know. It makes us happy to hear!

You can support our work and ensure that it continues. For instance, you can link to our site and let others know about it. Or become a CAP member! For more information, click on the "About CAP" button above.

If you find a broken link or outdated information, or want to suggest an addition or edit to this page, please let us know by emailing info[at] Please include both the webpage name and the relevant information.

Thank you to everyone who supports our ability to offer this information
to our community, for our planet!

This entire website is (c) Community Action Publications, 1998-2012. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 05/16/2003.