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Pesticides - are they killing us too?

S. Qiu & Dr Chee L Khoo

Pyrethroid, is one of the most commonly used pesticide accounting for more than 30% of pesticides worldwide. Derived from flowers, it is regularly used on fruit and vegetable crops (Naingolan, 2017). Australia has been using a synthetic strain of this pesticide since the 1980s, with applications in food crops and meat animals (Rigg & Christen, 1996). Apples, peaches and grapes are among the most contaminated fruits, with celery, tomatoes and cucumbers being the vegetables most contaminated (Goodrich, 2016).stick_fly_man_teleporter_800_clr_15215

So, what’s so bad about a bit of pesticide? Pyrethroid may be one of the least toxic pesticides (Kaplan, 2014), but that doesn’t mean it’s not toxic at all. The effects of pyrethroid exposure range from nausea and fatigue, to blurred vision and seizures (Beasley and Temple, 2013).

Most recently, there has been concern regarding the pesticide’s effect on puberty in growing children (Naingolan, 2017). As pyrethroid imitates the hormone oestrogen, it disrupts the endocrine system (Kaplan, 2014). Not only has this been found to cause long-term development issues, such as stunted growth and behavioural problems,

Dr Jing Liu of Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China recently performed a study on 463 boys aged 9 to 16, and found that postnatal exposure to pyrethroid can accelerate pubertal timing (Naingolan, 2017). This is particularly worrying as early puberty has been found to increase the risk of diseases later on in life, with an increased likelihood of developing testicular cancer in males, and breast cancer in females (Liu, Ye, Li & Liu, 2017).

As pyrethroid is so commonly used and airborne (Kaplan, 2014), it is hard to avoid. The pesticide easily found in dust, surface areas, and on the floor, resulting in children being more exposed to them than adults (Jabr, 2010). Buying organic fruit and vegetables, and using selectively non-toxic household products might help reduce the risks of early-onset puberty and other negative health side-effects (Kaplan, 2014), but ultimately, the use of pyrethroid needs to be significantly reduced globally in order to protect children from the long-term harm this chemical causes.

Are pesticides killing us?


Naingolan, L (2017). Common Pesticides Speed Up Puberty in Boys. Retrieved from:

Goodrich, A (2016). Be cautious with these fruits and vegetables; they're known to contain the most pesticides. Retrieved from:

Jabr, F (2010). Derived from flowers, but not benign: Pyrethroids raise new concerns. Retrieved from:

Rigg, A. and Christen, S. (1996). Pesticide Residues in Raw Fruit and Vegetables and Fruit Juices. Retrieved from:

Kaplan, M (2014). Pyrethroids: Not as safe as you think. Retrieved from:

Beasley, M, and Temple, W (2013). Pyrethroid toxicity and its management. Retrieved from:

Liu, J., Ye, X., Li, F., and Liu, W. (2016). Pyrethroids Exposure Accelerates Male Pubertal Development. Retrieved from:


The views expressed are views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the board of SSW GP Link