|My school is surrounded by fields. I always see
helicopters and trucks spraying the fields with
pesticides. Our track at school is less than 20
feet away from those fields. We run a mile for
P.E. about 2 times a month. Kids at our school
always go home sick. Since our school is so close
to the fields, I think that we inhale those
pesticides. I was wondering if there is any
information about short term effects like when
you first breath it and if there is any
information about long term affects like stuff
you dont know thats happening but its happening?
Thank you for your time.
|Question Date: 1999-01-25|
You're right that you are probably inhaling the
pesticides while spraying is going on but you
could also be inhaling them even when spraying is
not happening, just not as much. What the effects
on you are depend on what is being sprayed and how
much you inhale. Here is a website for you to
you don't know what is being sprayed or how much
you are inhaling, you probably shouldn't run near
the fields while they are being sprayed.
Especially if you see the workers wearing gas
The answer to your question depends, Jesse, on a
couple of things.
1) The type of pesticide
being sprayed and the concentration being applied.
This also includes the amount of time that they
spray.This will also relate to its persistence in
the environment (ie. how long it remains) and how
toxic it is.
2) The time of application and
correspond that with the time you run at.
are they close to the same time?)
sensitivity of each individual to the pesticide.
This is hard to measure, but certain indivduals
are more sensitive to a lower dose of
Some pesticides are easily
transported into your body's system via
inhalation, ingestion and topical application (ie.
it has to come in contact with the skin). Lets
assume that the pesticide does some how enter your
system, since some kids always go home sick. The
short term affects are
tremores, headaches, nausea, vomiting and some of
the more detrimental effects can be cancer,
necrosis of some portion of the biological system
(ie. skin,liver,kidney, etc.) to even death with
large doses exposure or long term
Long term exposure is harder to
prove--cancer is a good example as is death. The
problem is that people usually die by some portion
of their internal system breaking down....This is
also an effect of getting old, or so we think. So
it is hard to say did the person die because he
was exposed to pesticides or some other chemicals
for X amount of years or did he die because he got
old? Some times you have to look into the family
history about it. If nobody in the family has
ever died because of a specific sickness or that
sickness occurs statistically too frequent in one
specific region then maybe it was some external
action, which caused it.
doesn't answer your question, but if I may ask you
to observe the frequency of spraying, ask the
workers what they are spraying or if you knew the
crop, then look to see what pesticides are
frequently sprayed on them. This could be done by
a simple internet search and going to the
manufacture's home page. Also the US EPA has a
lot of info on chemicals, too.
I can understand why this would concern you. Like
any good scientist, you have observed some facts
(data): 1. spraying occurs near your school, 2.
After running a mile, some kids go home sick. You
have also made a hypothesis (guess): The
pesticides are causing the illness. You have also
hypothesized that the short and long term effects
of a chemical may be different.
hypothesis that fact 1 causes fact 2 could be
correct, but there are other possibilities too:
running a mile when you are not used to it might
make you feel sick; some kids might be faking it
to go home early; maybe the kids think the
pesticides are making them sick, so they feel
sick. (This last hypothesis is the opposite of a
"placebo effect" in which people think they're
taking a drug, so the feel better, even if it's
just a sugar pill.) The next step would be to
test the hypotheses. This is the most difficult
step. It would NOT be right to spray some kids
with pesticides and make them run, and compare
them with kids you sprayed with water labelled as
a pesticide. Even though the answer would be the
clearest, it would be illegal and
So what can you do? You could
keep track of patterns. For example, you might
secretly keep track of when the spraying happened
and how many kids went home sick after each run,
and see if there were a pattern. (Why would it be
a bad idea to tell the other kids you were keeping
track?) You might also collect other information
like whether as many kids went home sick on days
where there was going to be a test later on vs.
when there was going to be a fun event
As you suggest, sometimes the long
term effects of a chemical are different from the
short term ones. Short term effects might include
breathing problems, headache, nausea, or skin and
eye irritation. Long term ones might include
cancer, damage to tissues, or damage to genes
(DNA). The specific problems would depend on the
specific chemicals used and their
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