Pesticides are Poison, otherwise they would not kill


Pesticides, by definition, are toxic and biocidal. Even though they have been used for many years to eliminate specific pests, they have also had unintentional impacts on the health of wildlife and humans.

Canada has more than 6000 registered pesticide products and each year more that 50 million kilograms of pesticides are used. Each year, humans and wildlife are coming into increasing contact with them through direct application, inhalation, or ingestion of food products and water. It is estimated that as much as 50% of the chemicals used on lawns, gardens and crops end up in our ground water or surface water.

In 1996, the Quebec Poison Control Centre and the Ministry of Environment and Wildlife reported 1,650 poisoning cases, with 79.4% of the cases occurred in private homes, of these 46.1% were children under 5 years of age. 31% of these cases were due to oral ingestion and 34.9% following a pesticide application.

Although the chronic long term effects (bioaccumulative) are not fully understood, we do know that regular exposure to low doses of pesticides are associated with cancer, birth defects, childhood leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s Disease, hormone disruption, low sperm counts and sterility. These organochlorines, such as DDT, are attracted to fats, which allows them to accumulate in the tissues of living organisms. Many pesticides are considered “probable” or “possible” human carcinogens based on evidence of cancer in laboratory animals. North Americans and Europeans are known to have residues of at least 6 persistent chemicals in their bodies.

Short-term acute effects can be recognized by their immediate health effects on people who are overexposed. Organophosphates are extremely toxic and work by inhibiting enzymes that are essential for the proper functioning of the central nervous system. Effects can range from disorientation, to spasms, to eventual death.

What are the Symptoms of Acute Pesticide Poisoning?

  • External Injuries (via contact)
  • Skin: redness, itching, pimples, swelling or blistering
  • Mucous Membranes of eyes, nose, mouth and throat: stinging and swelling
  • Internal Injuries (via inhalation, ingestion or absorption across skin)
  • Lung: shortness of breath, heavy salivation, or rapid breathing
  • GI tract: nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps or diarrhea
  • Nervous System: excessive fatigue, sleepiness, headache, muscle twitching, & numbness


Treatment should be initiated immediately according to standard first aid poisoning protocol. Forewarn the doctor or medical facility so that they can begin preparations for treatment. Health care providers may not be well informed of the symptoms or treatment of pesticide poisoning. This is generally due to the few cases that they treat, and that pesticide poisoning symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses and poisonings. It is always advisable for clients to bring the printable version of the product label or at least the name of the suspect pesticide to the health care facility or with the emergency response team. The product label should detail what chemicals have been used, symptoms of poisoning, treatment and antidotes. Health care providers should contact the Poison Control Centre at 1-800-222-1222 to obtain accurate, up to date information about the product.

Should the poisoning be of an indeterminate variety, healthcare providers can access the PAN Pesticide Database – Pesticide Poisoning Diagnostic Tool.
This web based tool ( has been established to assist in identifying the pesticide or class of pesticide that may have been responsible for the pesticide-related illness. Product identification is based on observed symptoms, type of crop sprayed, pesticide type and/or geographic area of product application.

Remember that in some localities, pesticide poisoning must be reported to the appropriate authorities.

Technorati Tags: Pesticides, Forensic Science, Poisoning

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