The endocrine system is important in sustaining the normal functioning of the body. Nonetheless, there are some natural or anthropogenic chemicals that when enter the body system disrupt the hormonal system thus altering the metabolic processes. One category of endocrine disrupters is the pesticides including the dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). Pesticides are helpful in agriculture since they maintain the crops and livestock free from harmful microorganisms that may lower quality and quantity of the produce. Human beings consume DDT through various means including inhalation or eating contaminated food (Mnif, Hassine, Bouaziz, Bartegi, Thomas, & Roig, 2011). Despite the fact that DDT is necessary for pest control, it has multiple health devastations, especially disruption of the endocrine system hence the need for their complete ban.
DDT has various health effects on non-target species including human beings. The chemicals induce hormonal changes by mimicking the action of a natural hormone. It also binds itself to the hormonal receptors without necessarily activating them. Therefore, the chemical becomes antagonistic thus inhibiting the activity of enzymes (Mnif, Hassine, Bouaziz, Bartegi, Thomas, & Roig, 2011). Furthermore, they disrupt the hormonal synthesis, secretion, metabolism, and elimination. Epidemiological studies since 1962 when Rachel Carson in her reckoned writing called the Silent spring have shown that exposure to DDT affects physiological processes such as spermatogenesis thus causing reduced male fertility and low-quality semen (Gore, 2007). Environmental exposure to DDT is also scientifically associated with the risk of hormone-dependent tumors.
Most of the foods produced in farms where the chemicals are used have their residues (Gore, 2007). Therefore, it beats logic that whereas the agrochemicals result in food security, its effects on the non-target organisms are deleterious since they undermine the efficiency of physiological functions of the body (Jeng, 2014). The presence of DDT in the environment opens multiple pathways through which they enter the human body resulting in reduced endocrine functioning. Before banning DDT in the United States, its use was mostly unregulated leading to the exposure of people to high dosages. At high dosage, DDT adversely affects the reproductive physiology and behavior of virtually all non-target organisms through various processes including non-genomic or epigenetic mechanisms (Mnif, Hassine, Bouaziz, Bartegi, Thomas, & Roig, 2011). The epigenetic effects include DNA methylation and histone acetylation. These effects have the possibility of affecting the entire germ line of the organism (Patisaul, 2009).
Despite the adverse effects of DDT and associated inorganic compounds, their discovery influenced the Green Revolution which resulted in the massive production of agricultural produce in the 1960s. They helped in fighting pests which are among the causes of pre-harvest and post-harvest losses in virtually all farming systems. Therefore, the introduction of the large-scale use of agricultural chemicals helped to repel and kill these pests resulting in increased yields (Mnif, Hassine, Bouaziz, Bartegi, Thomas, & Roig, 2011). Apart from the direct control of pests in the farms, DDT protects people from pests that act as disease vectors.
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and other inorganic pesticides have multiple benefits to the farmers due to their cost-effectiveness compared to other organic pesticides. Furthermore, the chemicals have a long residence time and high toxicity to pesticides. The fact that the DDT does not break down easily in the natural environment implies that it guaranteed farmers long-term crop protection (Patisaul, 2009). Therefore, from the standpoint of crop and animal production, DDT significantly revolutionizes crop production.
Looking at the above facts, it is clear that DDT and other inorganic pesticides have both positive and adverse effects. The benefits include increased food production and food security. However, the negative consequences are direct on the physiological functioning of the non-target organisms. The endocrine implications of the chemicals are deleterious and irreversible while there are alternatives to the use of DDT thus they can be substituted with more friendly pesticides.
Gore, A. C. (2007). Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: From basic research to clinical practice. Totowa, N.J: Humana.
Jeng, H. (2014). Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Male Reproductive Health. Frontiers in Public Health, 2. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2014.00055
Mnif, W., Hassine, A., Bouaziz, A., Bartegi, A., Thomas, O., & Roig, B. (2011). Effect of Endocrine Disruptor Pesticides: A Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8(12), 2265-2303. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph8062265
Patisaul, H. (2009). Long-term effects of environmental endocrine disruptors on reproductive physiology and behavior. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 3. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/neuro.08.010.2009
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