It’s a big one, according to a new report from researchers at the University of California Los Angeles, and it could be putting our health—and the health of entire communities across the country—at risk.
For decades we’ve been led to believe that the use of pesticides in agriculture is carefully controlled to safeguard our well-being, and this may be true to a certain extent. However, regulators only focus on one chemical at a time to determine whether or not a substance is safe, and here is where the problem arises: most farmers use a cocktail of different chemicals all mixed together—and nobody is looking at the potential fallout of all those substances interacting with each other.
“The federal EPA and California Department of Pesticide Regulation have not adequately dealt with interactive effects,” said chemist and study co-author John Froines in a recent statement. “People are exposed to a large number of chemicals. You can’t simply look chemical by chemical to adequately address the toxicity of these compounds.”
Combining multiple pesticides has the potential to intensify their toxicity, says the UCLA report, and researchers worry about the possible snowball effect of applying combinations of different pesticides on crops—especially when those crops are close to homes, schools, and businesses. Because pesticide mixing likely brings an even greater health risk, Froines and his team recommend making changes to the way we regulate pesticides, as well as possibly establishing “no-spray zones” around heavily populated areas.