Pesticides can have a harmful effect on human health. Small amounts of some pesticides cause eye and skin irritations, damage to the nervous, hormone, and immune systems, cancer, or result in death. Despite this, large quantities of pesticides are used in the United States every year.
Out of the 26 most widely used pesticides in the U.S., 12 are classified as carcinogens by the EPA. Pesticides have a variety of effects on reproduction. In exposed people, some pesticides cause birth defects, some cause miscarriages, some cause babies to be born small, and others decrease fertility. Reproductive effects can occur in males, females, or both. As with cancer, perhaps the most striking statistics are the sheer volume of pesticides used every year that have harmful effects on reproduction. Of the 26 most commonly used pesticides in the U.S., 9 have harmful effects on male reproduction (causing sperm abnormalities, reducing sperm production, disrupting male hormones, and damaging male reproductive organs, mostly in laboratory tests). Use of these pesticides totals over 300 million pounds per year. Most of the 26 commonly-used pesticides have also caused decreased pregnancy success in laboratory tests. Miscarriages, a reduction in the number of living offspring, and reduced birth weights are common problems. Total use of these pesticides is about 600 million pounds per year.