Pesticide Basics

Pesticide Facts

What are pesticides?

Pesticides are poisons designed to kill plants or animals such as weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), termites (termiticides), fungus or mold (fungicides), rodents (rodenticides), microbes (disinfectants), and wood preservatives. These types of products are sold as sprays, powders, liquids, sticks, crystals, balls, foggers, bombs, pest strips, baits, dusts, pet products such as flea collars and shampoo and insect repellents.

Short–term Health Effects

  • headaches, convulsions eye, nose and throat irritation
  • dizziness, weakness, poisoning
  • nausea, breathing difficulties, muscle twitching

Long-term Health Effects

  • birth defects (genetic damage due to effects of hormone-disrupters)
  • increased stillbirths
  • decreased sperm counts
  • increased risk of leukemia
  • cancers (lung, brain, testicular, breast, ovary, lymphoma)
  • liver, kidney and pancreatic damage
  • damage to the immune system (asthma, allergies)
  • damage to the central nervous system (neurotoxicity)

Who is most susceptible?

  • children, infants and fetuses
  • the elderly
  • individuals who have asthma, allergies, chemical sensitivities, lupus, dermatitis, and those who have altered immune systems

Pesticide Ingredients

Pesticides include both active and inert ingredients which can cause a wide range of symptoms in humans. 3700 chemicals can be used in pesticides. Some of the inerts can be insecticides such as DDT or dioxin. In an 1991 EPA report which listed 300 inerts used in pesticides, some were generally recognized as safe, some were potentially toxic, some were toxic, while others had an unknown toxicity.


Many non-toxic and less-toxic alternatives can be found on the internet. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) uses a combination of natural and least toxic controls. However caution with IPM: Avoid the temptation to resort to unnecessary toxic solutions.

– S. Moser, Citizens for A Safe Learning Environment