Pesticides impact nearly all life on earth.
They are substances designed to kill pests and undesirable plants, as well as manage disease.
Yet, their impact is not limited to these effects.


Pesticides affect the environment by leaching into soils and waterways, killing insects, and depleting bird and fish populations.

Recent findings suggest that 41% of insect species are faced with extinction, and the top two reasons implicated are habitat loss and pollution from pesticides. These statistics are extremely worrying, not least because insects are vitally important as food for other wildlife, and as crop pollinators. 75% of global crop types rely on animal pollination. In the UK, farmland biodiversity continues to decline, with bird populations more than halving since 1970 and arable wildflowers becoming one of the most threatened groups of plants in the UK. Changes in agricultural practices, including increased use of pesticides, have been the leading cause of this decline.

As well as impacting the abundance of pollinators and beneficial predatory insects, pesticides pollute water courses and reduce soil quality. Earthworm abundance (vital for maintaining soil health and ensuring fertile soils for food production) is falling and pesticides are known to impact earthworm reproduction. Extensive use of pesticides is not conducive to sustainable farming.

Tractor spraying vegetables with a pesticide
Pesticides and human health


Pesticides are toxic, and exposure to pesticides can cause a number of health effects. They are linked to a range of serious illnesses and diseases from respiratory problems to cancer. Pesticides appear in millions of different combinations in varying concentrations in our food and landscape. Pesticides can cause harmful effects over an extended period, usually following repeated or continuous exposure at low levels. Low doses don’t always cause immediate effects, but over time, they can cause very serious illnesses. Long term pesticide exposure has been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease; asthma; depression and anxiety; attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and cancer, including leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Numerous studies have shown that farmers, farmworkers and their families have elevated negative health outcomes related to pesticide exposure. There are also concerns about the impact of pesticides on rural residents. Pesticide residues in food are an ongoing concern with much of the produce that is consumed in the UK being contaminated by multiple pesticide residues.

You can read more about pesticide harms on the PAN UK website here.

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