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Pesticide Basics

A pesticide is any chemical that someone uses to keep away or kill pests. Pests are bugs, like cockroaches, ants and flies, mice, rats or weeds that grow outside. Even germs can be considered pests.

  • Pesticides may help get rid of pests, but they can also be harmful to people, animals and the environment.
  • Even a household cleaner like bleach, glass cleaner or a product that says it kills germs, is considered a pesticide if it's used to get rid of pests.
  • All of these products can be dangerous if you do not follow the directions on the label.
  • The most important thing to do is read the label and follow the directions.
  • There are different pesticides for different pests. The label tells you what the pesticide is for and how to use it.
  • Pesticides are more dangerous to children, older adults and pregnant women.

Tips

Pesticides & Health

Pesticides can be dangerous if they get in or on the body. How dangerous depends on the type of pesticide, the amount, and how long the pesticide gets into or on the body. You can't always see or smell a pesticide. If you use a pesticide at home to kill bugs, work on a farm or live in a farming area, it's important to know the signs of pesticide exposure.

If a pesticide gets on the skin or in eyes, or someone breathes in a pesticide, these are the signs to look out for:

  • Runny nose or drooling
  • Trouble breathing or pain in the chest
  • Diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps, pain or twitching in the legs or arms
  • Rashes, bumps, blisters, burning or itchy, red skin, sweating too much.
  • Headaches, trouble seeing, small pupils
  • Damage fingernails, numb and tingling fingers
  • Feeling confused, weak or nervous, having trouble concentrating or sleeping

If someone has been exposed to a pesticide it is important to:

  • Read the pesticide labels for any first aid information
  • If the pesticide is on your clothes, take off clothing and wash the exposed skin or eyes with clean water
  • Go to a doctor or clinic for care
  • Call the free 24-hour poison control line for help in any language
  • If it happens at work tell a supervisor right away, they must help you get medical attention

If you see anyone with these very serious symptoms call 911 right away

  • Being unconscious
  • Loosing control over bladder and bowels (going to the bathroom without control)
  • Blue lips and fingernails
  • Shaking

Videos

Pesticides can be dangerous if they get in or on your body. Watch this video to learn the signs and symptoms of pesticide exposure

Images

Team Powershot

Wear long pants and closed-toe shoes

Worker with face protection

Cover your mouth

Female worker suited up

Cover your head and neck

Picking grapes

Wear a long sleeve shirt and gloves

Worker portrait

Pesticides can get on your body, so cover up for work