Pesticides and Poisons

General Information:

  • A general term used to refer to any chemical used to destroy, prevent or control plant or animal pests.
  • In most cases, pesticides are designed to kill pests, but most of them are dangerous to humans as well.


  • Any substance that can cause unintentional symptoms in the form of a solid, liquid, spray or gas.

Common household products children swallow:

  • Prescription Drugs
  • Over the counter medications
  • Vitamins
  • Cosmetics
  • Cleaning Products
  • Houseplants

Healthy People 2010 set goals to reduce the rate of exposure to pesticides

  • One objective that Healthy People 2010 formulated to help accomplish their goals:
    • Reduce exposure of the population to pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals, as measures by blood and urine concentrations of the substances or their metabolites

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pesticides:

  • How does the EPA determine whether pesticides are safe?
    • A pesticides toxicity is determined by the effects on the body if the product is ingested, inhaled or by skin contact
    • The EPA assesses risk based on the product’s active ingredients
    • The EPA performs a cumulative risk assessment which is done to evaluate the risk associated with exposure at one time to multiple pesticides that act similarly in the body
    • Through the assessments, the EPA then determines that there is reasonable certainty of no harm from the pesticide
    • The EPA sets standards on how the pesticide should be used: how much, how often, recommendations for protective equipment (example: gloves or mask)
  • The EPA regulates pesticides in the U.S. under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act signed in 1981.

Potential Human Hazards:

  • Depending on the pesticide, some containing organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous system. Others can be harmful to the skin and or eyes as well as the endocrine system


  • When purchasing household pesticides, be sure that the substance has been approved by the EPA, meaning it has been placed on the market only after strict testing:
  • Look for the EPA # on the product’s packaging
  • Check the active ingredients
  • Trust your Instincts
  • Contact your EPA regional pesticides unit that covers your location with any concerns
  • Remember even EPA approved pesticides are NOT meant for the home (for example: farm pesticides). Look for information on the product or package that indicates if the products is recommended for the general public, indoors or in the home.
  • Look for key words such as:
    • Use Protective Clothing
    • Caution, Warning, Danger
    • First Aid Suggestions (in case of dangerous exposure)
  • Store chemicals out of reach of children and Lock Your Cabinets!
  • Read the label first (look for specific instructions make sure that the product does not indicate that it should only be used by person whom are specially trained or certified applicants)
  • Before applying pesticides remove children, pets and toys from the area and keep them clear of the area until the pesticide has dried or as long as recommended on the product’s label
  • Always properly and carefully re-close the container tightly, even if you are not finished and have to temporarily step away from the product
  • Always keep chemicals in the original, labeled containers
  • Never mix pesticides or transfer them into another container
  • Don’t rely solely upon child-resistant closures
  • Never refer to medicine as candy

Interesting Facts:

  • 40% of cases involving poisons occur in children under 3 and more than 50% in children under 6
  • Bathrooms and kitchens were cited as the areas in the home most likely to have improperly stored pesticides
  • Each year, 70 million American households apply more then 4 billion pesticides throughout their home and garden.
  • Every 15 seconds, U.S Poison Center receives a call concerning a poison exposure
  • In the state of Virginia, in 2003, there were 617 deaths related to poisoning, making it the 3rd leading cause of injury death
  • The poisoning death rate in Virginia was 8.35/100,000
  • In Virginia, in 2003, there were 4,833 hospitalizations due to poisoning injuries, making it the second leading cause of injury-related hospitalization
  • 94% of all childhood poisoning occur in the home
  • The most common cause of unintentional poisoning to children is prescription drugs
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends that syrup of ipecac be the routine poison treatment in the home – ¦call poison control!
  • American Association of poison Control Centers estimated that in 2002 alone, an estimated 69,000 children were involved in common household pesticide-related poisoning or exposures. In addition to the 69,000 exposures, 26,338 children were poisoned by household chlorine bleach
  • Almost half of all households with children under the age of 5, had at least one pesticide stored in an unlocked cabinet, less than 4 feet off the ground, meaning within reach of children
  • 40% of cases involving poisons occur in children under 3 and more than 50% in children under 6

In case of emergency:

  • If the person is unconscious, having trouble breathing, having convulsions:
  • try to determine the source of poisoning and CALL 911
  • If the person is conscious, not having trouble breathing, and not having convulsions:
  • read the label for first aid instructions and CALL Poison Control

General First Aid Guidelines:

  • Swallowed poison – induce vomiting only if emergency personnel on the phone tells you to do so
  • Poison in the eye – hold the eyelid open and wash quickly
  • Poison on the skin – Soak area with water, remove clothing and wash skin with soap and water
  • Inhaled Poison – Take the victim to fresh air immediately, loosen victim’s clothing, begin artificial respiration if necessary and CALL 911

National Pesticide Information Center:

  • The center provides science-based information to callers concerning pesticides to the general public and medical professionals from highly qualified and trained specialists. They can provide knowledgeable answers to questions related to:
  • Pesticide product information
  • Information on recognition and management of pesticide poisoning
  • Toxicology
  • Environmental chemistry
  • Referrals for laboratory analyzes, investigation of pesticide incidents and emergency treatment
  • Safety Practices
  • Health and Environmental effects
  • Clean-up and disposal

Phone Numbers and Contacts:

  • Nationally:
    • Poison Control 1-800-222-1222
    • National Pesticide Information Center 1-800-858-7378
  • Virginia:
    • Blue Ridge Poison Control 1-800-451-1428
    • Virginia Poison Center 1-800-552-6337


  • Protect Your Family: know the dangers of illegal pesticides – a brochure that alerts parent about the dangers of illegal products on the market. It is available in Spanish, English and Portuguese by calling 1-732-321-6770

Links for further information:

Developed by: Jane-Claire Bailey, Susan Dillera, Caleb Hild, and Lauren Torbet


Comments are closed.