Effects of chemical fertilizers on human health and the environment

The use of chemicals as fertilizers and pesticides has increased dramatically over the past decades in Sri Lanka and around the world. Chemical fertilizers, despite their extremely harmful impact, have become a boon to Sri Lankan farmers which allows them to harvest improved agricultural yields, although the long-term adverse effects on human health and the environment in general are immense. .

Thus, the issue of organic fertilizers and agriculture has been one of the most debated topics in the country in recent weeks. The government’s import ban on chemical fertilizers has won tribute on the one hand and has also been criticized by part of the farming community due to the shortage of fertilizer for crops in the ongoing agriculture.

Long-term negative effects

In principle, everyone agrees that the use of chemicals in agriculture produces long-term negative effects. The good impression of organic farming and the bad impact of chemical fertilizers in Sri Lanka had been the subject of dialogue for several years. The use of chemical fertilizers in Sri Lanka is said to be much higher than the world average.

There is no argument that the benefits of organic fertilizers in agriculture outweigh man-made synthetic chemical fertilizers by leaps and bounds. Organic fertilizers are good for the environment; increase both nutrient efficiency and soil organic matter content, improve product quality, and provide many other benefits and benefits to society as a whole.

In line with the vision and policy framework of “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor”, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, speaking at a recent meeting held with members of the “Presidential Working Group on Creating a Green Sri Lanka with sustainable solutions to climate change, ‘said the country’s agricultural sector needs to be transformed to fully use organic fertilizers.

Going further, in his address to the nation on June 25, President Rajapaksa said he launched a pragmatic plan of action on an issue that has been debated for decades. In the speech, he disclosed that stopping chemical fertilizer imports was not a hasty decision but the result of many prolonged discussions with local and foreign experts and intellectuals.

The president reiterated that experts say the long-term benefits to the nation are immense once the organic farming program is in place as a policy. He added that international export markets for Sri Lanka would open up due to the huge global demand for organic fertilizers. As a result, farmers will have a better price for their products, and more profits for entrepreneurs who start organic food production will also have glory days.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Sri Lanka is an extremely credible example of the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers. The International Institute for Water Management suggests that more than 150,000 people have been affected by IRC in rural communities.

In addition, Professor Channa Jayasumena, a health professional specializing in the subject who has studied CKD, through a research paper suggests that agrochemicals are a major source of inorganic arsenic in Sri Lanka and that contamination increased by arsenic from soil and groundwater can affect food and drinking water. . He also recently said that more than 30,000 patients were awaiting kidney transplants, revealing a devastating fact about the extent of the damaging effects of chemicals used in agriculture. Therefore, the government’s decision to restrict chemical fertilizers is an extremely important decision that had to be taken a long time ago.

At worst, aside from chronic kidney disease that is common in some parts of the country, chemical fertilizers can also increase cancer risk in adults and children. According to studies, chemically fertilized foods consumed can adversely affect fetal brain development, an area that has not been sufficiently discussed so far in Sri Lanka.

A study from the University of Wisconsin suggests that typical concentrations of nitrate (a common fertilizer) and a pesticide in groundwater can compromise the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems of young children and developing fetuses. Additionally, it has been revealed that high levels of sodium nitrate in groundwater can cause stomach cancer and testicular cancer.

As we have seen, the use of organic based fertilizers in agriculture benefits producers, consumers and the environment tremendously in many ways. Organic fertilizers increase both the nutrient efficiency and the organic content of the soil. It also nourishes the soil with natural matter which reduces dependence on destructive chemical inputs and increases soil fertility for plant growth. Organic fertilizers also improve the efficiency of nutrient use to produce healthier foods.

Farmers take their face value

At first glance, one might think that chemical fertilizers give farmers more control over agricultural production. In some cases this may be correct although the result is usually short term due to the possible complexities of soil health that can arise in the long term.

One of the main environmental problems with chemical fertilizers is that dangerous chemicals leach into the soil into the groundwater. The infiltration of chemicals into the soil can easily contaminate water resources, triggering a chain reaction that can damage the balance of nature and also human health. In particular, damage to groundwater resources can produce critical problems for the entire country in many ways.

The cumulative effect on the health of people who consume foods grown using chemical fertilizers can be extremely dangerous. Food crops produced with chemicals may not be as nutritious as they should be. Although using artificial fertilizers on crops can produce faster growth and improved harvest in some cases, the nutritional value is much lower than that of organic food products. Chemical fertilizers produce fewer essential nutrients such as calcium, zinc and iron, according to various studies.

Contamination from chemical fertilizers is dangerous for rural and urban communities, as the country’s drinking water comes mainly from rivers, lakes or other resources.

Although the running water commonly used in urban areas is purified before distribution, river water contaminated with chemicals creates a fatal danger to people when consumed. In rural areas where agriculture is traditionally practiced, it can cause similar damage when groundwater is contaminated due to the use of chemical fertilizers.

Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, a small part of the population is still trying to justify the use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture for unknown reasons, possibly for monetary gains from chemical fertilizer manufacturers and their agents. Although there may be temporary practical problems, in principle the notion is unassailable.


There may be some uses in chemical fertilizers depending on their explanation. Nevertheless, most of the research articles published around the world do not rule out that the use of such fertilizers causes damage to the environment and to human health.

We know that such damage is most often long-term, cumulative, and can be fatal. So-called intellectuals who are in favor of maintaining the use of chemical fertilizers should be urged to search for thousands of victims who have died or are undergoing severe treatment for kidney disease, cancer, skin-related diseases and many more. other ailments.

However, the concerns raised by experts about the country’s agricultural production should also be taken seriously. In addition, the ongoing protests of the farming community appear genuine and perhaps created due to the ineffectiveness of the state institutions involved.

Nevertheless, the government must give the highest priority to the agriculture-livestock fraternity and offer them reasonable solutions until carbon dioxide agriculture is properly placed.

At this point, the whole country should support the move to reduce and eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers, not because of the presidential manifesto or the demand of the government, but to protect human lives in the country. and the environment from the toxic effects of chemical fertilizers.

The answer to the havoc caused by chemical fertilizers is organic farming and an eco-friendly farming approach. Today it is a well established fact that there is an urgent need to move forward towards the development goals of organic farming systems.

About Charles Holmes

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