Pesticides are pest-killing substances that help protect plants against molds, fungi, rodents, noxious weeds, and insects.
Pesticides help prevent crop loss and, potentially, human disease.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are currently more than 865 registered pesticides.
Human-made pesticides are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This agency determines how pesticides are applied during farming and how much pesticide residue can remain in foods sold in stores.
Exposure to pesticides can happen in the workplace, through foods that are eaten, and in the home or garden.
For those not exposed to pesticides at work, the risks of exposure from eating non-organic foods or using pesticides around the home and garden is not clear. To date, research has not been able to prove or disprove claims that organic food is safer than food grown using pesticides.
FOOD AND PESTICIDES
To help protect yourself and your family from pesticides on non-organic fruits and vegetables, remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables and then rinse the vegetables well with tap water. Peel hard-skinned produce, or rinse it with lots of warm water mixed with salt and lemon juice or vinegar. Organic growers do not use pesticides on their fruits and vegetables.
HOME SAFETY AND PESTICIDES
When using pesticides at home:
When using pesticides indoors:
When using pesticides outdoors:
To reduce the need for pesticides to eliminate rodents, flies, mosquitoes, fleas, or cockroaches in and around your home:
Parents who handle or are otherwise exposed to pesticides at work should be careful about cleaning any residue from their skin, and removing their clothes and shoes before entering the home or having contact with family members.
Do not buy illegal pesticides.
Pesticides and food
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Chey H, Buchanan S. Toxins in everyday life. Prim Care. 2008;35:707-727.
Karr CJ, Solomon GM, Brock-Utne AC. Health effects of common home, lawn, and garden pesticides. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2007;54:63-80.
Robey WC III, Meggs WJ. Insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides. In: Tintinalli JE, Kelen GD, Stapczynski JS, Ma OJ, Cline DM, eds. Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2004:chap 182.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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