What is a pesticide?
Pesticides are chemicals developed to kill pests which include insects, weeds, fungi or rodents. Pesticides are widely used on agricultural crops, in the home, for mosquito control, in yards, and in public places. The types of pesticides commonly used are also called insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and rodenticides. Some of the benefits of pesticides are increased crop production, preserving produce, combating insect infestations and controlling exotic species.
What is pesticide poisoning?
Pesticide poisoning is an illness or injury resulting from exposure to a single or mixture of pesticides. The illness or injury can be acute, sub-acute, sub-chronic or chronic depending on whether the exposure is immediate, short-term or long-term. An acute onset of illness usually occurs within 24-48 hours after the exposure. Sub-acute illnesses may occur after being exposed for 30 days or less. Both acute and sub-acute illnesses may appear in the form of systemic signs and symptoms (e.g. respiratory, gastrointestinal, neurological); dermatologic signs (e.g. rash, hives, blisters); or ocular signs (e.g. redness, burns, blurred vision). Sub-chronic illness may occur after 30-90 days of exposure. Chronic conditions may developed after a prolong exposure over longer periods (several months to years) and may appear as carcinogenic, developmental, neurological, or reproductive problems.
Are pesticides harmful to People?
Pesticides are designed to be harmful to pests. When not used properly,
pesticides can cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment. The
severity of pesticide poisoning depends on the toxicity of the chemical
ingredients, the amount of the pesticide, the length of time of the pesticide
exposure, and how the pesticide enters the body. Reading the label and
following the directions can prevent most pesticide-related illnesses.
Are some people at greater risk to the effects of pesticides?
Some people can be more sensitive to pesticide exposure. The responses of people can be very different depending on their basic health condition, age and individual
characteristics. Children, elderly and people with health conditions may be more adversely affected. The frequency and duration of contact with pesticides will affects the risk of persons developing health problems. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control has a Registry for Pesticide Sensitive Persons, which list people who have been identified as sensitive to pesticides by their physician. The registry may be contacted at
850-921-4177. Persons on this registry are notified before a Licensed Pest Control Operator sprays pesticides for lawn care in an area adjacent to their residence.
How can I be exposed to pesticide?
Exposures occur when you come into contact with a pesticide and it enters the body through ingestion, inhalation, or contact with the skin, eyes or mucous membranes. A potential risk of pesticide poisoning may be present if pesticides are nearby but they must contact your body to harm you. If a pesticide is in the air, it can be inhaled and may pass into the bloodstream. If it is in food or water, or if it is accidentally swallowed, it can enter through the stomach. Certain pesticides may pass through the skin and into the bloodstream. Some pesticides may also enter through other routes such as the skin, eyes, nose and throat and cause effects in these areas.
Examples of Pesticide Exposure
Drift or Over spray: Pesticide sprayed from an airplane, tractor or a home sprayer may drift or blow onto people living, working or going to school near agricultural fields or other nearby sites. If this exposure is due to an agricultural aerial application or is a misuse of a pesticide according to the label, the DACS, Bureau of Compliance at 850-488-3314 can be notified. If it is aerial control of mosquito the DACS, Mosquito Control can be reached at 850-922-7011.
Occupational :Farm workers, applicators, or mixers may come into contact with high concentrations and large volumes of pesticides. Risky activities include mixing, applying pesticides, weeding and hand harvesting crops. Workers may unknowingly expose their families by carrying pesticides into their homes on their bodies, clothes and shoes, or by washing their work clothes together with the rest of the family laundry. Exposures of
farm workers to pesticides are investigated by the DACS, Bureau of Compliance at 850-488-3314.
Household: Improper use, storage, and application of household pesticides such as insect repellents, foggers and baits, rodent poisons, weed killers, flea and tick control products and disinfectants can lead to poisonings when not used properly. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control at 850-921-4177 investigates pesticide exposures involving a Licensed Pest Control Operator.
What Should I do if I am exposed to a pesticide?
- First Aid Treatment:
- Poison on Skin or Clothing - Remove cloths immediately and wash skin with running water for fifteen minutes.
- Poison in eyes - Rinse eyes with water for fifteen minutes.
- Inhaled Poison - Leave area and seek fresh air.
- Swallowed Poison - Read label to determine if there is something you should do right away.
Call Florida Poison Information Center Network (FPICN) at 1-800-222-1222. A professional staff of nurses, pharmacists, and physicians trained in toxicology are at the FPICN 24 hours a day. The staff provides poison information and treatment recommendations related to pesticide exposure.
Seek medical help from your physician or hospital emergency room. Bring with you:
- Labels of all pesticides to which you may have been exposed.
- Records indicating what was sprayed from the person or company that sprayed.
Contact the Department of Health through the County Health Department or contact the Department of Health, Bureau of