Pesticide poisoning symptoms and other health issues
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Pesticide Poisoning Symptoms and Other Health Issues. Joanne Kick-Raack State Coordinator, Pesticide Education Programs The Ohio State University Extension. Acute or Chronic?. Acute Effects Immediate “poisoning” or harm Based on LD50 values Most sensitive route determines Signal Word.

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Pesticide Poisoning Symptoms and Other Health Issues

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Pesticide poisoning symptoms and other health issues

Pesticide Poisoning Symptoms and Other Health Issues

Joanne Kick-Raack

State Coordinator, Pesticide Education Programs

The Ohio State University Extension

Acute or chronic

Acute or Chronic?

  • Acute Effects

    • Immediate “poisoning” or harm

    • Based on LD50 values

    • Most sensitive route determines Signal Word

Acute or chronic effects

Acute or Chronic Effects?

  • Chronic Effects

    • Long-term effects from small doses over time

    • Not necessarily on label

    • Some information on MSDS

Chronic effects

Chronic Effects

  • Carcinogenicity-cancer

  • Mutagenicity-genetic changes

  • Teratogenicity- birth defects

  • Oncogenicity-tumor growth (not necessarily cancers)

  • Liver damage

  • Reproductive disorders-sperm count, sterility, miscarriage

  • Nerve damage

  • Allergenic sensitization

The label and your health

The Label and Your Health

  • Signal word based on the LD50 of the most toxic route of exposure

  • Statement of Practical Treatment is “first aid”

  • Signal word does not indicate chronic toxicity

  • Product can be restricted use for “oncogenicity” although the signal word is Caution

  • Protective equipment, REI’s and harvest intervals protect against acute and chronic effects

Material safety data sheets msds

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

  • Provides information on chronic toxicity

  • Refers to the concentrate rather than dilute product

Organophosphates and carbamates

Organophosphates and Carbamates

  • Examples: Lorsban, Diazinon, Sevin, Malathion, Furadan and many others

  • Cause of most acute pesticide poisonings

  • Inhibit cholinesterase, affect the nervous system

  • Effect is reversible

  • Monitor with blood tests

Signs and sypmtoms of cholinesterase inhibition

Signs and Sypmtoms of Cholinesterase Inhibition

  • Can be confused with flu, or heat exhaustion

  • Mild poisoning symptoms

    • Headache, fatigue, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, cramps, diarrhea

    • Blurred vision, excessive tearing

    • Contracted pupils

    • Excessive sweating and salivation (this is not true for heat stress)

    • Slowed heartbeat

    • Rippling of muscles underneath skin

Cholinesterase cont d

Cholinesterase cont’d

  • Moderately severe

    • Unable to walk

    • Chest discomfort and tightness

    • Pinpoint pupils

    • Muscle twitching

    • Involuntary urination and bowel movement

  • Severe

    • Incontinence, unconsciousness, seizures

Aggregate and cumulative exposure

Aggregate and Cumulative Exposure

  • Food Quality Protection Act –in reexamining pesticides EPA adds all exposures from all pesticides in a group (ex.organophosphates) together to estimate public health risks.

Natural pyrethrum pyrethrins and rotenone

Natural Pyrethrum/Pyrethrins and Rotenone

  • Crude pyrethrum is a dermal and respiratory irritant

  • Asthma has occurred after exposures

  • Refined pyrethrins less allergenic but some irritant and sensitizing properties

  • Rotenone has little human hazard

    • Hazardous to fish, birds,

Synthetic pyrethroids

Synthetic Pyrethroids

  • Examples: Baythroid, Pounce

  • Synthetic mimics of natural pyrethrins

  • Systemic toxicity by inhalation or skin absorption is low—few human poisonings

  • Dermal and respiratory irritation

    • Stinging, itching, tingling progressing to numbness

Natural inorganic insecticides

Natural Inorganic Insecticides

  • Boric Acid and Borates

    • Irritating to skin

    • Infants- “boiled lobster appearance” –redness, followed by peeling of skin

  • Sulfur

    • Dermatitis-skin irritation

    • Irritation of eyes and respiratory tract



  • Most are unlikely to cause severe or frequent poisonings

  • Cause irritant injuries to skin and mucous membranes, dermal sensitization



  • Chlorothalonil’s (Daconil) potential to cause cancer is unclear

  • EBDC’s under FQPA review as group

    • Can degrade to ETU which can produce cancer in mice

    • However, do not appear to be carcinogenic



  • Many can irritate skin, eyes and respiratory track

  • Low systemic toxicity

  • Ex. Some Round-up calls for eye protection

Diquat paraquat


  • Paraquat more toxic (orally)

    • Large doses (6-8oz.) produces fatal lung changes.

    • Fluid accumulation in lungs can occur in 24 to 72 hrs. Respiratory failure.

    • Exposure may cause blackening and abnormal growth of nails

  • Diquat affects eye lens and intestinal tract lining—vomiting.

  • Both cause skin irritation and burning

2 4 d and mcpa

2,4-D and MCPA

  • Moderately irritating to skin and mucous membranes

  • May cause burning sensations in nose, sinuses and chest, dizziness

  • Not “agent orange”

  • Agent orange issue was from dioxin contaminant in the manufacture of 2,4,5-T

2 4 d and cancer

2,4-D and Cancer

  • There are no reports that indicate a direct link between 2,4-D exposure and cancer in humans.

  • Some concern about higher rates of a type of cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, among farmers, ag workers and pesticide applicators but different studies are not consistent.

2 4 d and cancer1

2,4-D and Cancer

  • Most studies have not found a relationship between exposure to chlorophenoxy herbicides and soft sarcoma.

  • Current evidence does not indicate that exposures to 2,4-D are linked with an increased incidence of breast cancer in humans or experimental animals.

Atrazine and cancer

Atrazine and Cancer

  • Found in drinking water

  • Under special review

  • Based on scientific evidence presented, EPA reclassified atrazine as “not likely to be a human carcinogen”

  • Will be evaluating endocrine disruption

Chronic effects and controversy

Chronic Effects and Controversy

  • Cancer

  • Endocrine disruption

    • Infertility and sperm counts

  • Multiple chemical sensitivity

Food quality protection act

Food Quality Protection Act

  • All older pesticides must be reevaluated based on new standards

  • Evaluating risk based on cumulative and aggregate exposure

  • New testing for endocrine disruption

  • Higher protection factor for children

Endocrine disruption

Endocrine Disruption

  • Hormones, alter bodily functions, development, and growth

  • We are only starting to gather information on which chemicals are endocrine disruptors and at what level they have an effect.

  • FQPA mandates testing of pesticides for endocrine disruption

  • New screening tests must be developed—very difficult

Organochlorines and cancer

Organochlorines and Cancer

  • DDT/DDE, dieldrin, chlordane

  • Accumulate in fatty tissues

  • No conclusive evidence

  • Infertile alligators and reduced sperm counts

Multiple chemical sensitivity

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

  • More frequent in women

  • Very controversial whether it is really a disease

Agricultural health study

Agricultural Health Study


  • National Cancer Institute

  • Iowa and North Carolina

  • Long-term study, collecting wide range of information

  • Evaluate the incidence of many types of cancer and chronic diseases in relation to exposure to a variety of chemicals used on the farm in both women and men.

Toxicity information

Toxicity Information

  • National Pesticide Telecommunication Network800-858-7378

  • Extoxnet

  • Poison Control Centers

    Ohio State University Extension, Pesticide Education Program

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