Despite what many of us might think, no substance is inherently safe or unsafe. Any substance - even the most innocuous - can be harmful if you are exposed to too much of it. Pesticides are designed to be toxic to the target pest while being safe to the people that use these chemicals. However, accidents and misuse occur and they can cause illness or injury. The potential for a pesticide to cause injury depends upon several factors:
Recognizing Pesticide Poisoning. Like other chemicals, pesticides may produce injury externally or internally.
Pesticides can cause contact-associated skin irritation or allergies. Symptoms of irritation include redness, itching, or pimples. Allergic skin reactions may produce redness, swelling, or blistering. The mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat are also quite sensitive to chemicals. Stinging and swelling can occur.
Internal injuries may occur depending upon where a chemical is transported in the body or what organ is affected. Shortness of breath, excessive saliva and rapid breathing may occur because of lung injury. Other symptoms to watch for include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, or dizziness.
First Aid for Pesticide Poisoning. Appropriate first aid treatment depends on which pesticides were used. Here are some tips that may precede but should not substitute for medical advice or treatment:
After you have administered first aid, you should get medical help immediately. If someone develops symptoms after using or being around pesticides, call the "Poison Control Center" listed in your phone book. Ask if the symptoms are pesticide-related and what you should do--being too cautious is better than not. Be sure to have the pesticide container when you call. Medical personnel will ask what the chemical is. Overexposure to certain chemicals causes characteristic symptoms and the doctor needs to know what the chemical is before prescribing treatment. If you are advised to seek treatment at an emergency room or physician's office, you should bring the product label to show your doctor.
To avoid problems, you should minimize your exposure when mixing and applying pesticides by wearing gloves and other protective clothing. Also be careful to follow the label instructions for mixing and application. Safe use depends on that.
Keep this fact sheet handy. Look up the number of your local Poison Control Center now, so you have it nearby. Write it on the front of your phone book or somewhere else close to the phone.
Environmental Protection Agency
DEPARTMENT OF PESTICIDE REGULATION
1020 N Street, Room 100
Sacramento, CA 95814-5624
Phone: (916) 445-4300
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More