It is alarming how few studies have been conducted regarding potential impacts of herbicide toxicity on both
human health and the environment. “Herbicides typically receive less criticism and publicity than pesticides do” says Rose Burberry-Martin from Chisholm, Chisholm, and Kilpatrick LTD. Possibly because of the incorrect perception that herbicides have less of an opportunity to come into contact with our families and food. While herbicides are intended to kill undesired plants to give nutritional crops the chance to grow, herbicides can unfortunately have inadvertent consequences of damaging living organisms that are not plants. The unfortunate facts are that herbicides impact humans and wildlife negatively as well as natural habitats and plants.
A main concern regarding herbicide safety that has not been emphasized much previously is the insufficient
testing procedures. While the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) mandates that while the active ingredient
must be tested, the inactive ingredients do not necessarily have to be. The EPA does not typically test chemical
mixtures (for example, a herbicide and pesticide or more than one herbicide), which are actually more
dangerous than one type of chemical used alone.
Herbicides mirror the hormones of the plant, and have many negative effects on the natural environment. These
chemicals harm freshwater crustaceans and the fish that rely on their nutrition; it is not unlikely that the human
body could be impacted similarly. Chemical farming, specifically the use of herbicides, has noticeably distorted
the habitats across America and Europe.
Studies have proven how exposure to herbicides can cause the risk of lymphoma to be increased. Swedish
research has demonstrated that there is a correlation with phenoxy herbicides and an increased chance of soft-
tissue tumors taking place. Kentucky counties were studied ecologically and found that the production of corn
crops, water contamination, pesticide use, and triazine herbicides have been linked to an increased risk of breast
cancer for women who were exposed to triazine herbicide.
The toxicity of herbicides could even be associated with the causation of birth defects. Geological areas that
grow great quantities of wheat were shown to cause a 60-90% increased risk of birth defects. Herbicides could
even have a negative effect on female fertility. Even simply applying or mixing herbicides to a garden two years
prior to trying to conceive was a commonality among women who were infertile.
Clearly, contact with these herbicides is a risk to our health and should be avoided when at all possible. As
consumers, we are being exposed to herbicide chemicals that may or may not have been tested, and to what
extent of testing these chemicals go through may not have been congruent with consumer safety. While there
are of course alternative purchasing options for people wishing to eat cleaner, organic food typically has higher
price points, which may not always make the switch from herbicides possible for all consumers. As consumers, it
is possible to commit to natural alternatives to avoid herbicide toxicity by supporting natural farmer’s markets,
organic produce in health food stores, and by growing vegetables at home.