Agrochemicals refers to the broad range of pesticide chemicals, including insecticide, herbicides and fungicide chemicals that are used in agriculture. Most are mixtures of two or more chemicals; active ingredients provide the desired effects, and inert ingredients stabilize or preserve the active ingredients or aid in application. The term may also include synthetic fertilizers, hormones, and other chemical growth agents, as well as concentrated stores of raw animal manure. Although initially used to improve crop production, overuse of chemicals has now started affecting the environment. Apart from the obvious effects on crops and the food chain, agrochemicals have a wide area of application. Due to these many uses, they seep into the surrounding land and water bodies, therefore having a widespread effect.
A general increase in the use of chemicals in agriculture has brought about a concomitant increase in the incidence of agrochemical poisoning. Organophosphates are the most common agrochemical poisons followed closely by herbicides. Many agricultural poisons, such as parathion and paraquat are now mixed with a coloring agent such as indigocarmine to prevent their use criminally. In addition, paraquat is fortified with a “stenching” agent. Organochlorines have an entirely different mechanism of action. Whereas organophosphates have an anticholinesterase activity, organochlorines act on nerve cells interfering with the transmission of impulses through them. A kerosene-like smell also emanates from death due to organochlorines. The diagnosis lies in the chemical identification of organochlorines in the stomach contents or viscera. Organochlorines also resist putrefaction and can be detected long after death. Paraquat has been involved in suicidal, accidental, and homicidal poisonings. It is mildly corrosive and ulceration around lips and mouth is common in this poisoning. However, the hallmark of paraquat poisoning, especially when the victim has survived a few days, are the profound changes in lungs. Other agrochemicals such as algicides, aphicides, herbicide safeneres, fertilizers, and so on, are less commonly encountered.
Governments in most countries have passed legislations to prevent accidental poisonings with these agents. The US government passed the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in 1962 and the Indian government passed The Insecticides Act in 1968. Among other things, these acts require manufacturers to use signal words on the labels of insecticides, so the public is warned of their toxicity and accompanying danger.Today pesticides are used across the world in all types of communities. The health hazards could potentially be slimmer if it was not for the duration that the population is exposed to the chemicals. Since pesticides are so commonly used, there is constant exposure of the harmful effects. This over exposure can result in major health concerns and even death in some cases. There are many ways people can be exposed: chemical residues in food and water, chemicals blown into public areas by the wind, working in the agriculture or pesticide industry, or direct ingestion of the harmful chemicals. As a result, many pesticides have been directly linked to multiple forms of cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Parkinson’s Disease, and have been shown to have strong effects on the nervous system. The amount of cases of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma had been shown to double in rural areas in some studies.