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Pesticides and Herbicides

Pesticides and herbicides were created to help us manage pests such as harmful insects, arachnids (e.g., spiders, ticks and lice), rodents (e.g., rats and mice) and weeds.

While many insects, arachnids and rodents are an important part of the environment, some are responsible for heavy destruction of farm produce. These pests also harm people with their bites or stings. Still other pests are carriers of serious diseases.

Many pesticides and herbicides have been formulated to be absorbed on contact. Pesticides and herbicides can also be harmful if breathed or eaten. Unfortunately, whatever is lethal to a pest or a weed will usually cause illness in human adults and even more severe symptoms in children and pets. 

Routes of toxicity
Signs and Symptoms
Common Brands
Organophosphate Absorbed by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal exposure Headache, excess salivation, muscle twitching, nausea, diarrhea, seizures, loss of consciousness Supracide, Dursban, Duratox, Rampart
N-Methyl Carbamate


Absorbed by inhalation and ingestion Muscle weakness, dizziness, sweating, headache, salivation, nausea, vomiting Landrin, Temik, Sevin, Famid, Fernos
Organochlorine Absorbed by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal exposure Sensory disturbances, headache, dizziness, nausea, hyper excitable state, convulsions DDT, Kepone, Strobone, Pentac
Biological insecticides Absorbed by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal exposure Several cause gastrointestinal infections. Can have central nervous system (CNS) effects as well as cardiovascular effects. Nicotine, Align, Rotacide, Dipel, Bactur,
Chlorophenoxy Absorbed by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal exposure Irritating to skin and mucous membranes. Causes vomiting, diarrhea, headache, confusion, bizarre or aggressive behavior, peculiar odor on breath. Metabolic acidosis, renal failure, irregular heartbeat Banvel, Diamba, MCPA, MCPB
Pentachlorophenol Absorbed by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal exposure Irritation of the nose, throat, and eyes. Hyperthermia, muscle spasm, tremor, labored breathing, and chest tightness indicating serious poisoning PCP, Chlorophen, Pentacon
Nitrophenolic Absorbed by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal exposure Sweating, thirst, fever, headache, confusion, restlessness. Characteristic bright yellow staining of the skin and hair often present with topical exposure Nitrader, Talan, Triforce, Caldor, Basanite
Arsenic containing Absorbed by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal exposure Garlic odor of breath and feces, metallic taste in mouth, adverse GI symptoms, chronic muscle weakness, fatigue, weight loss. Zoltox, Salvo, Jones Ant Killer
Fungicides Absorbed by inhalation and ingestion. Absorbed through skin when product contains mercury. Variable Terraneb SP, Bravo, Clortran, HCB, Earthcide
Fumigants Absorbed by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal exposure Highly variable, many are irritants, can have serious CNS effects, can cause pulmonary edema, can cause severe hypoxia Chloroform, Lavacide, Meth-O-Gas, Sanifume
Rodenticides Absorbed by ingestion Highly variable, can cause bleeding, pulmonary edema, cardiovascular, GI, and CNS effects Havoc, Liqua-Tox, Rocol, Tomcat

Federal regulations require that all pesticides and herbicides carry the following label:


The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of safety tips to follow when pesticides or herbicides are used in or around your home.

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