Do You Know Pesticide Risks and Symptoms?
What Are Pesticides?
Pesticides are chemicals intentionally used to kill or keep away insects, rats, weeds, mold or other pests. Pesticide health impacts harm people, wildlife, and our environment.
“By their very nature, most pesticides create some risk of harm. [They] can cause harm to humans, animals or the environment because they are designed to kill or [harm]…living organisms.” -U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Pesticide Health Impacts, Hazards and Harm
Pesticides and Human Health
Studies link pesticides to a wide range of acute and chronic illnesses. Acute, or short-term, pesticide injuries often are misdiagnosed as they mimic symptoms of other illnesses. Acute symptoms may include:
- Blurred vision and eye irritation
- Diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
- Breathing problems
- Headache and muscle pain
Low-dose, long-term exposures to pesticides may also lead to chronic diseases. Recent research indicates that endocrine disrupting chemicals- including endocrine disrupting pesticides – can have long-term adverse health impacts at exquisitely low doses. Experts in the field have noted that the regulatory system for pesticide registration may no longer be appropriate as it is based on the belief that the dose makes the poison. Chronic health effects linked to pesticide exposures include cancers (including Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, brain tumors, lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and soft-tissue sarcomas) neurological, learning and behavioral disorders, reproductive dysfunction, developmental disabilities, birth defects, immune system disorders, and asthma and other respiratory diseases. Existing research links pesticides to illnesses that may not be apparent until years after exposure. Pesticides are linked to Parkinson’s and Lewy Body disease, both of which are becoming more prevalent in our senior citizen population and to autism in children – the 2012 rate of autism in our country is estimated at one in every 88 children. Nearly 100 pesticides in use today are classified by the EPA as probable or likely human cancer-causing chemicals, and nearly 90 pesticides are classified as possible or suggestive human cancer-causing chemicals. The US EPA has yet to review suspected endocrine-disrupting pesticides, as was mandated by Congress. Some of the suspected endocrine disruptors the EPA will be reviewing have already been confirmed as such by the European Union. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to a range of health problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility and other reproductive disorders, and childhood and adult cancers. For further information on pesticides and human health, download MPN’s resource guide: Pesticides: The Risks, Prevention and Healthier Choices or purchase a hard copy on-line.
Pesticides, Pets, and Wildlife
Pesticides also impact the health of pets, birds, and fish. Many flea and tick products, for example, contain pesticides that may cause cancer or other health problems for pets.
Pesticides and the Environment
The Chesapeake Bay’s waterways are in peril. While a large part of this concern is attributable to nutrient overload, chemical toxins may place additional strains on this region’s most important aquatic species and sources of income. Pesticides, or their degradates, are found throughout the Chesapeake waterways. Pesticide concentrations exceed national water quality benchmarks for aquatic life and wildlife that eat them. These toxic chemicals that contaminate the Chesapeake waterways may have adverse impacts on the environment, aquatic life, bees and pollinators, and pose potential hazards to human health. See more research on health impacts.
How Are We Exposed to Pesticides?
Pesticides are used almost everywhere. They are used in agriculture, homes, schools, daycare centers, playgrounds, forests, workplaces, and health care facilities. Pesticides are found in:
- Air you breathe
- Food you eat
- In water you drink
- Lice, flea and tick treatments
- Roach, rodent and other insect poisons
- Cleaning products
- Cosmetic products like toothpaste, deodorants and soaps
- Decks, play equipment and picnic tables
- Golf courses
- Insect repellants
- Lawn and garden products
- Well water
Learn more about pesticide impacts from MPEN’s Pesticide Research Database and the Pesticide Hazards Gateway.