Critical analysis of the extensive aerial application of pesticides and its implications for human health
Author(s): Monica Lopes-Ferreira, Geonildo Rodrigo Disner, Sonia Corina Hess, Rubens Onofre Nodari, and Carla Lima
Agriculture is one of the most important commercial activities worldwide since it contributes to a great amount of the nation's gross domestic product, labor opportunities, and food production. However, on the other hand, current industrial agriculture is extremely dependent on chemicals, both pesticides and fertilizers that are a serious threat to the health of people and the environment. Despite the advent of new technologies like unmanned aerial spraying systems (UASS), regulations surrounding the aerial spraying of pesticides to accommodate the benefits and limitations necessary to ensure the protection of humans and ecosystems are still scarce. High concentrations of chemical substances released by drones in a spray solution at improper altitudes, inappropriate ambient temperatures, or with incorrect droplet sizes increase the risk of phytotoxicity effects and spreading to non-target areas, potentially contaminating non-resistant neighboring crops, agricultural workers, and surrounding communities. Following the increase in the number of aircraft, the contamination events due to the drift events of pesticides increased parallelly. Research points out that “technical drift” may reach up to 19% of the sprayed volume, which does not reach the target, but goes to the soil, water, air, nearby plantations, and communities. Exposure to pesticides in smaller and regular doses can lead to chronic health conditions, which is much more difficult to study and prove. In some cases, illnesses develop years or decades after exposure but still are of great concern since the use of pesticides, notably in highly agricultural countries, has increased greatly to reach food and commodities demand.