Frazer, Lance, Environmental Health Perspectives
In attempts to control insects and the diseases they bring, farmers have relied on variety of pesticides, many of which are highly toxic to humans. Meanwhile, insect resistance is growing. Replacement technologies are critical. Now associate entomology professor Linda Mason and colleagues at Purdue University are investigating ozone as one possible replacement.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, insect damage to the nation's stored wheat crop costs some $500 million annually; Purdue's agriculture department estimates that about 5-10% of the world's food production is lost during storage each year because of insects, with some countries losing as much as 50%. Insects such as the lesser grain borer, the red flour beetle, and the rusty grain beetle not only devour vast amounts of stored grain, but add insult to injury by defecating on the kernels, triggering the growth of fungi and molds such as Fusarium and Aspergillus. Fusarium infection can cause illnesses from esophageal cancer to alimentary toxic aleukia, and the aflatoxins produced by Aspergillus can cause cancer and damage the brain, liver, and kidneys.
Ozone has been used to purify water, and the agricultural industry has used it to decontaminate perishable foods and disinfect manufacturing equipment, water, and packaging materials. Neither the volume nor the concentration used are high enough to contribute to environmental problems. …