- Cavit BaranAffiliationPrinceton University
- Robert Yee (Commentator)AffiliationPrinceton University
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"Health Legacy of Agricultural Pesticides in the United States"
Cavit Baran, Ph.D. Candidate in Economics, Princeton University
Pesticides first became a public concern during the environmental movement in the 1960s but the use of hazardous substances in agriculture dates back to the late 19th century. It is estimated that approximately 1.7 billion pounds of pesticides that contained arsenic and lead were applied to soils just from 1930 to 1950. Despite their wide use for decades, relatively little is known about how these historical pesticides have affected public health and changed the American landscape forever. This paper investigates the potential health effects of agricultural use of arsenic in the long term. Combining rich historical farm data with federal and state records, Baran finds that both growing arsenic-dependent crops and living in areas with greater arsenic use is associated with increased risk of cancer mortality and shorter life expectancy among the farm population even long after the arsenic era. Baran shows that health effects are strongest among younger cohorts who spent their early childhood in the pesticide era.
Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Finance and Public Policy and Program in History of Science