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Your Environment. Your Health.



farm machinery spraying pesticides


A pesticide is any substance used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are considered to be pests. Pesticides include herbicides for destroying weeds and other unwanted vegetation, insecticides for controlling a wide variety of insects, fungicides used to prevent the growth of molds and mildew, disinfectants for preventing the spread of bacteria, and compounds used to control mice and rats. Because of the widespread use of agricultural chemicals in food production, people are exposed to low levels of pesticide residues through their diets. Scientists do not yet have a clear understanding of the health effects of these pesticide residues.

In this New York Times video, Brenda Eskenazi, Ph.D., discusses results from the CHAMACOS study. When pregnant women are exposed to pesticides, their children may have health problems like wheezing or decreased IQ.

What Is NIEHS Doing?

The Agricultural Health Study, an ongoing study of pesticide exposures in farm families, also posts results online. Other evidence suggests that children are particularly susceptible to adverse effects from exposure to pesticides, including neurodevelopmental effects. People may also be exposed to pesticides used in a variety of settings including homes, schools, hospitals, and workplaces.

Further Reading

Stories from the Environmental Factor (NIEHS newsletter)

Fact Sheets

Some Natural Pesticide Alternatives (English)

Alternativas para Pesticidas: Por la seguridad de su familia y de sus mascotas

Healthy Homes = Healthy Kids: Pest Control (English)

Healthy Homes = Healthy Kids: Pest Control (Spanish)

Healthy Homes = Healthy Kids: Pest Control (Arabic)

Additional Resources

  • Glyphosate & Glyphosate Formulations: National Toxicology Program - Due to the multiple interpretations of evidence on the potential health risks of glyphosate exposure, major public concern about exposure risks, and reported differences in the toxicity of different glyphosate products, NTP is conducting more research on glyphosate and its formulations. NTP is testing the potential genetic and mechanistic toxicity, and will also examine the published scientific literature for data on the effects of glyphosate on non-cancer outcomes.
  • Indigenous Health Collection- Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) present a collection of papers focusing on indigenous peoples who overall experience a disproportionate burden of several chronic diseases, compared with other racial and ethnic groups.
  • PestiBytes: A Podcast Series on Common Pesticide Questions - PestiBytes are brought to you by the National Pesticide Information Center, a cooperative agreement between Oregon State University and the Environmental Protection Agency and produced by OSU's Environmental Health Sciences Center, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
  • Pesticide Action Network North America - PAN seeks to reduce the use of pesticides through more economically viable alternatives. Publishes reports on pesticide use, health effects, occupational safety, etc. Website also offers a Pesticide Database that allows you to search by chemical or product.
  • Pesticide Exposure - The National Library of Medicine's (NLM) Enviro-health links website provides an excellent set of resources that address the relationship between pesticides and human health. The webpage provides links to selected websites on pesticide exposure, as well as on the treatment and prevention of pesticide poisoning.

Related Health Topics

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