What are the Dangers of Pesticide Exposure?

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  • Written By: L.R. Ferguson
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2019
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Pesticide exposure can result in several dangers that can damage a person’s health. Depending on the chemical and the amount of the pesticide to which a person is exposed, the body’s reaction and resulting health problems will vary. When exposed to pesticides, humans and animals can experience a number of health problems, such as nerve damage, cancer, birth defects and even death.

Symptoms usually appear quickly once a person has suffered pesticide exposure. Some of the warning signs of exposure include headache, burning of the skin or eyes, vomiting, muscle weakness and fatigue. If a person is repeatedly exposed to pesticides, even in small doses, then the risk for developing a serious illness, such as cancer, is increased. Though the damaging effects of pesticide exposure can be lessened — and even prevented — by receiving immediate and proper medical attention, in cases of chronic exposure to chemicals, the likelihood of developing lifelong health complications is much greater.


Pesticides are primarily used to eliminate and prevent pests of all kinds from infiltrating or damaging crops. There are more than 1,000 chemicals that can be considered pesticides. Two common types are insecticides, which are used to prevent insects from damaging crops, and fungicides, which are employed to control the spreading of fungus. Variations of pesticide chemicals are also used to kill rodents, bedbugs and mites, all of which commonly infest households. Store-bought insect sprays might not be effective enough to kill mass invasions of these pests, so professionals usually use special pesticides to successfully eliminate them.

Though pesticides are useful in that they prevent produce from being damaged or insects from infesting buildings, the dangers associated with them are serious. Pesticide exposure can result in the poisoning of humans and animals that unknowingly come into contact with them. The likelihood of health problems occurring because of pesticide exposure depends greatly on not only the type of pesticide to which a person comes into contact but also the amount to which they were exposed.

Pesticide exposure can occur through three main modes of contact: dermal contact, oral contamination and inhalation. Exposure to the dermis occurs when a pesticide comes into contact with the skin or eyes. This can happen to people who use pesticides incorrectly or without using proper protective clothing and eyewear.

Oral pesticide exposure happens when a person eats produce that has pesticide residue on it. Inhalation of a pesticide occurs when a person breathes in pesticides when using them. This type of pesticide exposure commonly happens to workers, such as farmers or those who work in environments that manufacture pesticides.


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