Our environment is polluted

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Our Environment Is Polluted: Salinas Valley Suffers

Three hundred years ago, man lived much closer to nature. For the most part, was not threatened by man-made changes to the global environment in the way is today. The industrial revolution had not begun. There were no power stations, factories, automobiles, or other sources of widespread pollution. The thought of man's ruining the whole earth may have been hard to imagine. Frequently has become obvious that man now has the amazing ability to completely poison everything lives in the land and seas. This mostly happened due to the efforts made to improve their way of life, to reduce pain and disease, bring media communication worldwide to the room of their homes, make the conquest of space and produce military equipment. But, much of the problem is caused by the new deadly chemical compounds made by man .The production of these chemical compounds produced equally lethal and extremely toxic waste which are scattered or thrown into rivers and streams without giving attention to the consequences that this will bring to human and the environment. Man is ruining even his drinking water! In poor lands, millions of people die each year because the shortages water, instead nearby, water sources are contaminated by, among other things, fertilizers and pesticides that wash into rivers and seep into groundwater. In 1986 the world production of pesticides was 2.3 million tons, and the rate of increase is reported to be 12 percent per year. (EPA)

Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers have been a blessing for farmers throughout the Salinas Valley, but proved to be disastrous for the waters of the Earth. For years the Salinas Valley located in California State, farmers sprayed with pesticide DBCP grapes, fruit and tomatoes, only to discover in recent years that this can cause cancer and infertility in humans. Although this product is no longer used, venom has continued filter through the layers of soil to groundwater. A Health Department spokesman said: "the 35% of wells in the Valley have DBCP". In a county of the same State, Over 1 million children consume more than the safe adult dose of organophosphates (insecticides that work by poisoning the nervous system) daily, reports Newsweek magazine. There are other pesticides that affect the nervous system, and even from other suspected to cause diseases. It was discovered that some herbicides cause damage to the brain, crippling the victim. In many agricultural areas fertilizers have resulted in the nitrate concentration exceeds the maximum number allowed by the law of the State of California.(EHIB) These chemicals have also come to aquifers.

With progress in the field of chemistry has improved the quality of detergents and solvents, liquids for the dry cleaning and products for the cleaning of septic, to only name a few. Results have greatly benefited humanity. However, as such products are filtered out of the ground bring pollution of pure waters of the Earth for future generations as a result. Raymond Myers Environmental Science Professor of Heald College said: "we're poisoning ourselves and our property".

It was believed that the land itself purify these chemicals as passed through its layers, making them harmless. However, the last decade has discovered that many of these dangerous substances have not been filtered, but have followed by penetrating to the aquifers and contaminated them for future generations. "Pollution of groundwater is result of committed sins long ago" said Mr. Myers. "No one had the insight to predict it."

However, the sins continue committing so far. Quality Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that only in the United States more than 1.5 billion gallons of hazardous wastes annually through groundwater. Much of these wastes are discarded by men without scruples and greedy who don't mind the terrible damage this causes the water supply and human health. A scientist said: Only 1 quart of solvent can contaminate over 20,000,000 of groundwater to a level exceeding the pollution ceiling established by the majority of States (EHIB). When one thinks in terms of billion liters or gallons of waste, then the expression of water, water everywhere and not a drop to take, highlights as something horrible that can become a reality. What is the case of the pesticide use in the agriculture industry?

There are chemicals with long names that few people can pronounce and that for convenience bear letters such as PCB (Polychlorinated Biphenyls), DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), PCDD (Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins), PCDF (Polychlorinated dibenzofurans), TCDD (Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin). This alphabet soup of toxic chemicals is a deadly hazard both to humans and to earth's resources on which man must rely to live. “Thousands upon thousands of releases of toxic substances into the environment” occur each year, said a spokesman for the United State Environmental Protection Agency. Such releases pose a threat to the quality of air, surface water, and underground drinking supplies, and poison the soil for decades to come. The United Stated Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in the United States alone, 1.5 trillion gallons of hazardous chemical wastes find their way into the underground water systems each year. Knowing that just one gallon of solvent will contaminate 20 million gallons of groundwater to exceed safe levels, it is staggering to compute what catastrophic damage 1.5 trillion gallons of poisonous chemicals are doing (EHIB).

Because of hazardous chemicals and wastes and the careless dumping of them, rivers and streams are being polluted. Fish are dying. As the rivers and streams enter the oceans, the death-dealing chemicals pour with them, and in some places where ocean life was once plentiful, today, according to famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, fish can no longer be found. (WWAP).

Many people are not aware or have received education appropriate to the use of agricultural chemicals and explosion these which of these cause health effects.  In 1984 the Center for Disease Control reported, 1,156 diseases and incidents with field workers were related the use of pesticides in the State of California (CDC). Growing concern about the safety of workers and public health has given rise to much debate on the regulation of the use of pesticides and herbicides that are still using. Unfortunately, large corporations matter is to produce multiple monetary benefits. These corporations hire lawyers and doctors to put pressure the Government to minimize the regulations on the use of pesticides. (Zilberman)

Statistics show that from 1982 to 1991, there were 548 Mevinphos recorded in the California-related, grasshopper, aphids, mites, cutworms, and other insects.  This product is applied to diseases. In this notification 68 of these cases occurred in hospitalization and 201 resulted in the loss of working days. Mevinphos, an organophosphate insecticide used to control pests for example: leafhoppers caterpillars variety of vegetables for example: head lettuce, lettuce leaf, celery, cauliflower, and broccoli. In the Salinas Valley is the most used by many farmers which is mainly applied to head lettuce and leaf lettuce. In consequence Salinas Valley fieldworkers suffer; fields are saturated with this popular chemical.  Sever exposure to the Mevinphos usually causes a very dangerous intoxication that brings the most serious diseases that could not produce any other pesticide or insecticide currently in use. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, identify students, tremors and at worst, paralysis.  Many workers, such as the harvest, and fumigation, are the more vulnerable to exposure to pesticides compared to other workers, such as those who set up irrigation systems (Sunding and Zivin, 2000).For example Jose Gallardo a married man and father of four kids, now a student from Heald College in Salinas, California, remember one of the many incidents related with the exposure to pesticides.  Jose was fieldworker for 9 years employed for BUD and Dole one of the largest companies in the Salinas Valley. One Friday early on a morning in June 1993, Jose and co-workers were cutting lettuce. While plane was spraying pesticides one fields away from them. Numerous workers noticed the incident, that result of an uncomfortable and dangerous work environment. After continuous fieldworkers complains the Foreman told everyone to stop working and leave the field, however, about 15 or 20 minutes later, Foreman persuaded them that it was safe to come back to work. Foramens are pressured from companies to make large orders that do not allow delays; in consequence, field workers suffer the exposure to pesticides. Jose suffer of continues rashes on the skins due to the greed of the company to make them work in fields recently sprayed. The case of Jose is not the only one in the Salinas Valley, as well as this case are repeated daily in various parts of Monterey County.

Many fieldworkers as Jose have never received any type of training or information regarding pesticides and other harmful chemicals used in the fields in their work place. Usually they are unfamiliar with many of the symptoms of pesticide poisoning. Also fieldworkers feel weighed down by being in this country, unsure of whom to ask for help due to their language barrier whit out knowing what to ask the doctors and other service providers. The worse scenarios, many of them are undocumented workers from Mexico and Latin America, fearfully for job loss or drastically, deportation to their country if they complain to any possible work-related or pesticide injury. Consequently this workforce struggling daily raise crops that feed the nation have to silence their pesticide exposure-related problems.

Thus there are factors that farmers are considered using Mevinphos, such as the population of insects, high taxes, and the regulations imposed by the use of this pesticide. Farmers known that the insect population affect the marketability of lettuce leaf, consequently would bring them great lost, therefore carefully evaluate the gains levels at the end of the harvest by balancing all expenses incurred to the use or not use of Mevinphos. Finally, farmers compare the results of the evaluation, balancing the benefits expected with or without the use of this pesticide. Although all these factors play an important role in the decision to apply Mevinphos, farmers in result opt for the use of this product because at the end, result in gains in high proportion to their pockets. (Sunding and Zivin, 2000). 

In the United States, pesticide bans are the main form of regulation of pesticides used.  However, pesticide bans success depends on the availability the use of substitutes to pesticides. No substitutes, prohibits the result in lower levels of production, higher prices and a loss of income for farmers.  However, other methods, such as the partial ban (restrictive political use and pesticide taxes) can result in benefits for health without so many economic costs (Zilberman,) There is another factor that affects positively, as well negatively is the PHI (pre-harvest intervals).

Government authorities in an effort to reduce the number of field worker diseases caused by contact with pesticides impose period time application pesticides and tax regulation to the farmers for pesticides used.  Consequently impose increase PHI, the cultivation of intervals which is designed to reduce agricultural workers exposure to harmful chemicals and allow the disintegration of the pesticide that agricultural workers come into contact with. However, these measures are not always positive, also can bring results negative to alter the amount of pesticide needed, as a result farmers can increase the overall amount of the need to use pesticides, which in consequence  result the increase in the contamination of soil and underground aquifers.  The results for the Salinas Valley considered that in spite of the incentive to remove the necessary reduction of pesticides in the exhibition outweigh the increased pollution to decrease the number of poisoning. 0.79 cases per unit increase in PHI.  Therefore, regulations of the Government to increase the PHI, as well as the tax on pesticides which raise the cost of the use of pesticides, have also designed to encourage farmers to not use so many pesticides. Farmers, at all costs, opt for the use of pesticides from without them does not obtain the expected benefits.  These noble efforts of the Government to impose high taxes in order to reduce pesticide use do not get the expected results, because farmer's greed always wins (Zilberman). Farmers assess their affairs in generate more profits, then how can be evaluated the risks and the levels of contamination in the field workers body?

To assess the risks of agricultural workers who are exposed to pesticides well, these is measured by the level of contamination in the blood, exposure to pesticides and physical symptoms said Angie Córdoba a Medical Assistant of the Clinica de Salud del Valley de Salinas. This clinic is well known from fieldworkers whom often visit when they have an incident related pesticides exposure. "often lettuce cutters as well as various companies sprayers comes with problems related to exposure to pesticides" expressed Angie.  Exposure is evaluated by "square centimeter of surface of the ground units" per kilogram of body weight per day, added Angie.  In other hand contamination is defined as "treated with the pesticide acres, the quantity of chemicals used per acre treated and distributed of the crop-specific coefficient product" (Sunding and Zivin, 2000). Government regulations require that agricultural companies send sprinkler pesticide conducted regular tests to see the level of contamination for the benefit of the worker. However, these government imposed regulations of regular check-ups for the agricultural sprayers, are not taking in consideration to harvesters whose are more exposed to the saturated fields by pesticides.

The results of this whole situation cause suffering to the farming community of the Salinas Valley, especially the fieldworkers and their families, which also innocently have been poisoned by pesticides. Studies in the houses of some peasant families, have found pesticide residues in household dust, also on their children's toys.(“CEHI”) This situation is alarming, since the vulnerable children have been paying the consequences to the use of harmful pesticides.  Urgently, an action plan is need, action plan that helps both environmental as well the agricultural community. One positive change that can be taken, would be to produce organic products, which is well known, have many advantages over non-organic products. But, this change could really be a solution to this problematic situation? How organic products are produced, and are there any benefits available to make this change?

To initiate, organic products come from organic farming, which is a system of production which seeks to make maximum use of the resources of the land, giving emphasis to the fertility of the soil and biological activity, at the same time minimize the use of non-renewable resources, promoting not to use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to protect the environment and human health. Organic agriculture involves much more than not using agrochemicals affirmed Raymond Myer, Environment Sciences Professor of Heald College in Salinas California. This includes all agricultural systems that promote the production of organic food with environmental, social and economic criteria, thereby reducing drastically the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, which are genetically modified organisms also emphasized by Mr. Myer.

Organic foods are produced by producers which emphasize on the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations; without the use of conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic or sewage ingredients bio-engineering or Ionic radiation. O production only makes use of organic fertilizers and has a special care to land in crop rotation to prevent erosion and land wear.(Gold)

Organic or ecological agriculture helps contribute to improving the quality security foods."Most consumers associated foods are healthier due fewer pesticides contain" stated Mr. Myers. Organic agriculture not only helps higher quality products, but also makes the life of the land long and lasting; as not to use synthetic fertilizers calculates the energy consumption is reduced to which helps to mitigate climate change, since their production process ignores the polluting substances such as pesticides, synthetic and fertilizer use. Mr. Myers stated also.

It is interesting to know is that the most organic products are sold at higher price in comparison with conventional products. However, although it is difficult to generalize, a reduction is expected in the future of this price difference due to an increase in the organic production of some products, which will meet the market demand. (Gold) There are countless benefits to opt for organic agriculture compared to conventional agriculture and its use of harmful pesticides that only cause damage to the community and the environment.

There is not other effective way to prevent pesticide exposure and to protect fieldworkers is to eliminate the use of harmful pesticides, as an alternative adoption of new forms to growing organic methods. Farmers need to change their mind evading avarice of incrementing their gains and avoiding the use of pesticides. In the other hand the Government need to create regulation which the persuade farmers to adopt of organic production methods. Awaiting that time, community patience must be needed. Cooperation of every group is indispensible to continue work hand to hand to ensure that fieldworkers are receiving adequate information that provide  protection for  themselves and their families against of the exposure of pesticides..

Works Cited

Myers, Raymond,/Heald College/Environmental Science Instructor. Personal interview. 25 Feb. 2010.

CDC. "Acute Poison Following an Exposure to Agriculrue Insecticide." CDC. Center of Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Aug. 1985. Web. 15 Mar. 2010. <http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000585.htm>.

Cordova, Angie/Medical Asistant/Clínica de Salud del Valle de Salinas. Personal Interview. Mar 15.2010.

EHIB. “Environmental Health Investigation Branch” Agricultural Pesticide Web Mapping Service. September 3 2009 Environmental Health Investigation Branch. Web, March 5 20010 <http://www.ehib.org/tool.jsp?tool_key=18>

EPA. “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency” Noise Pollution February 23, 2010. EPA, Web. 20 Feb 2010  <http://www.epa.gov/air/noise.htmlHealth Effects of Noise pollution>

Gallardo, Jose/Heald College Student. Personal experience. 03 March 2010.

Gold, Mary V. "Organic Production and Organic Food: Information." NAL.USDA. United States Department of Agriculture, June 2007. Web. 30 Mar 2010. <http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/ofp/ofp.shtml>.

Sunding, David, and Joshua Zvin. Journal of Agricultural Economic. 82.5 ed. 527-540. 2000.

"The Pesticide Issue." CEHI. Children's Environmental Health Institute, 12 Dec. 2010. Web. 15 Mar 2010. <http://www.cehi.org/pesticides.html#top>.

WWAP. “UNESCO's Water Family.” Case Study Volume: "Facing the Challenges", The 3rd United Nations World Water Development Report March 16 2009. WWAP, Web. 20 Feb 2010 <http://www.unesco.org/water/wwap/wwdr/wwdr3/case_studies>

Zimbeam, David. Sience, New. Mason: Cengage Learning, n.d. Print. Ser. 253.5019.

Begley, Sharon. “Pesticides And Kids' Risks.” Newsweek 1June 1998