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There are many different types of pesticides.  Pesticides are substances used to kill or repel insects, weeds, bacteria, mold, or viruses.  They are applied in homes and on lawns, in agricultural fields on fruits and vegetables, and in parks, golf courses, and buildings.  They are also used on pets and people to protect them from insects.  They can help grow crops more efficiently and protect people from diseases.  Improper use of pesticides may lead to build up in the environment, pesticide poisoning, and other health problems. 

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 occurs.

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Last modified on: 1/20/2010 12:54 PM