Pesticide exposure is a major concern for farmworkers and people who eat lots of pesticide-laden produce. But average New York City residents–regardless of their diet–may have it even worse than people in rural communities.
That’s due to the levels of two common toxic pesticides that are found commonly in old, often crumbling New York City apartments, according to a comprehensive new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Public health researchers analyzed urine samples taken from New York City residents during the NYC Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2004. They looked for breakdown products of two kinds of pesticides—pyrethroids and dimethyl organophosphates (the latter was banned from indoor use in 2001 but residues remain in many buildings and in people’s bodies), and found from the results that “estimates of exposure … were higher in NYC than in the U.S. overall.”
These pesticides can have serious health and reproductive system effects, and the authors, several from NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, caution that it’s important to consider the amount of pesticides that urban dwellers are already exposed to when making regulations to guide pesticide usage.
Since the time the samples were taken in 2004, New York City has tried to change practices to make the “war on bugs” less chemical dependent through “integrated pest management” approaches. Even so, the sharp rise in bed bug infestations to epidemic-proportions in New York and many other U.S. cities could mean that chemical exposures may be just as bad today.