health effects of pesticides

Outside of the wide-scale application of agricultural pesticides, the most common domestic application of pesticides encompasses lawn, garden and home extermination services. Commercial businesses, particularly food service operations, are required to engage the services of professional exterminators to regularly treat their property to prevent pest infestations. Overall, the use of pesticides, as prescribed by manufacturers’ instructions, are handled through controlled methods. Despite this, there is always a risk of adverse health effects if pesticides are overused or mishandled. What follows are some of the potential health effects of pesticides you should be aware of.

How Exposure to Toxic Substances Occurs

Exposure to the toxic chemical effects of pesticides may be either acute or chronic; the difference between the effects of immediate exposure or over an extended period. With acute or immediate exposure, this is typically managed by best practices in handling and applying pesticides. Direct exposure from spillage or droplets, for example, can produce immediate symptoms. Chronic effects occur from exposure to small doses over time. This can be caused from overuse or over-saturation of the environment such as in the water, soil and air.

Common Symptoms of Pesticide Exposure

The range of pesticide poisoning symptoms may be as mild as a skin irritation to as severe as coma and even death. The chemicals used are classified by their toxicity levels, and individuals tend to present a variety of sensitivity levels to the same chemicals. While some people may experience no signs of symptoms at all, others, by comparison, can experience severe illness to the same exposure. Broadly defined, symptoms are either topical, by site contact, or systemic, absorbed through the body.

Topical Symptoms

The most commonly reported topical effect related to pesticide exposure is dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin. This can range from reddening to rashes or blisters. Coughing, wheezing or sneezing may result after exposure to pesticide sprays. The petroleum distillates used to facilitate pesticide application can cause some individuals to react to the strong odors or irritating effects. Highly susceptible areas such as the eyes, the mucous membranes in the nose and sensitive areas in the mouth and throat may become raw or feel scratchy. In general, these are all symptoms that can be termed as allergic reactions.

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Systemic Symptoms

Systemic effects tend to occur away from the original contact point as exposure is absorbed and distributed throughout the body.

These symptoms can be mild to severe including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Intestinal disorders
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Death

A common direct exposure to pesticides can come through using exterminators to control house pests. As people become increasingly aware of the impact of pesticide use on human health and the environment, sound judgment is called for when estimating the benefits of pesticide application within an acceptable limit of risk.

It is not enough anymore to merely accept or tacitly trust industrial methods of production nor the regulatory authorities and their position aimed at protecting your home, human health, and the environment. Most official agencies are missing the target. Consider the uncertainties as you evaluate the safety of pesticides. Incorporate policy guidelines, scientific data and the professional judgment necessary when deciding the beneficial use of pesticides.


Looking to hire a pest control company, that uses less toxic and more eco-friendly methods, try EMCO Pest Control.

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