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Pesticides are chemical or biological substances used to destroy or control insects, plants, rodents and fungi. There are sold in sprays, liquids, sticks and powders, and are an indoor air quality problem when used or stored in the home. Pesticides contain a broad spectrum of complex chemicals that may cause immediate or long-term negative health effects and 80% of people’s exposure to pesticides happens indoors. There are 1200 ingredients registered for use in pesticides, some of which are carcinogens (cancer causing agents). Pesticides also contain inert agents that can cause health problems, they are inert because they have no affect on the pest but can be harmful to people. The chemicals break down more slowly and are in much higher concentrations indoors than they are outdoors.

They are classified as a semi-volatile organic compound and may be around long after initial application. Exposure includes skin contact, ingestion and inhalation of the chemicals used in these products. Exposure is caused by various avenues: indoor application, storage in the home, use outside the home and bringing in on the shoes, clothing and other objects that may be contaminated, building materials and furnishings such as pressure treated lumber, carpets and wallpaper adhesives.

The best way to avoid risk of health effects from pesticide use is DO NOT USE THEM!

  • Minimize the need for them by inspecting where pests are coming from and seal the entryways
  • Keep your house clean to minimize insects and keep garbage away from the home
  • If need be, use traps or baits instead in the areas where pests are found
  • Correct moisture problems that may attract pests and could lead to other problems, such as mould

If you need to use them:

  • Only buy as much as you will need
  • Always follow manufacturer’s instructions
  • Dispose of the remainder properly; drop them off at a hazardous waste site
  • If you decide to keep unused portions, store unused pesticides in a sealed container away from the living areas of your home
  • If pesticides were used outside your home make sure to take your shoes off before entering the house to prevent bringing in pesticides from outdoors
  • Do not let pets or children on grass that has been sprayed.

Effects experienced from some pesticides are most prevalent during and shortly after the application or use of the product, although these effects can linger much longer than that, sometimes many years. 

  • Pesticides have not been adequately tested for the health effects on humans (See Health and Environmental Effects of Pesticides)
  • Headaches, fatigue and shortness of breath, muscular weakness, skin irritation
  • Other more serious reactions such as vomiting and loss of consciousness
  • Health effects are aggravated in pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those who suffer from respiratory concerns or allergies
  • Damage to central nervous system and kidneys
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Short term exposure to high levels of pesticides may cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, allergic or neurological symptoms
  • Long term exposure may be associated with neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

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