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Pesticide Illness

Pesticide illness is a grouping of symptoms and diseases that can be caused by exposure to pesticides in the workplace, home, and other places in the environment.

Exposures to pesticides may cause a wide variety of both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) health affects, depending upon the type of pesticide and the amount of exposure.  Signs of acute poisoning may include diarrhea, pinpoint pupils, rashes, nausea, headache, and vomiting.  Some pesticides may cause eye, skin, or throat irritation. Chronic exposure (greater than 1 year) to some types of pesticides may aggravate asthma symptoms; other types may increase the risk for certain types of cancers and birth defects, or cause damage to the genetic and immune systems.

Infants and children may be especially sensitive to health risks posed by pesticides because their internal organs are still developing and maturing.  Children eat and drink more in relation to their body weight, possibly increasing their exposure to pesticides in food and water. In addition, playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths can increase a child's exposure to pesticides used in homes and yards.

Exposure to pesticides should be avoided whenever possible.  CDPH recommends that people use common sense measures, such as washing fruits and vegetables before eating and carefully following the directions on products, in order to minimize their exposure to pesticides.  Remember to wash skin and clothing promptly if contact with pesticides occur.

For more information on pesticide exposures and hazards, see Pesticides.

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Last modified on: 1/20/2010 1:21 PM