Pesticide Facts

What Are Pesticides?

Pesticides are poisons designed to kill a variety of plants and animals such as insects (insecticides), weeds (herbicides), and mold or fungus (fungicides). Pesticides include active ingredients (chemical compounds designed to kill the target organisms) and inert ingredients, which may be carcinogens or toxic substances. They also include rodenticides and wood preservatives.

How Do Pesticides Reach Us?

Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin, swallowed or inhaled (most toxic). During application pesticides drift and settle on ponds, laundry, toys, pools and furniture. People and pets track pesticide residue into the house {3}. Only 5% of pesticides reach target weeds. The rest runs off into water or dissipates in the air. Drift from landscaping ranges from 12 feet to 14.5 miles {1}. More serious effects appear to be produced by direct inhalation of pesticide sprays than by absorption or ingestion of toxins. {2}

Are Registered Pesticides Safe?

NO. Many of the “safety tests” used to test these products are fundamentally inadequate: they test for the acute (not chronic) effects of single (not multiple) chemicals on healthy (not sick, chemically sensitive or immuno-suppressed etc.) adult (not feta l or young) animal (not human) subjects exposed over short (not long) periods of time {10}. Some of the companies testing pesticides have been charged and convicted of falsifying residue and environmental studies that were used to support pesticide registration in the US and Canada {10}. Some pesticides become even more toxic as they break down. (In the US it is a violation of federal law to state that the use of pesticides is safe.) Pesticides initiate and propagate multiple chemical sensitivities. About 16 million US citizens are sensitive to pesticides (i.e. they have compromised immune functioning as a result of pesticide exposure). {10}

Besides Sensitivity And Toxicity What Other Health Risks Are There?


  • Increased Risk Of Leukemia
  • Cancers (Lung, Brain, Testicular, Lymphoma)
  • Increase In Spontaneous Abortions
  • Greater Genetic Damage
  • Decreased Fertility
  • Liver And Pancreatic Damage
  • Neuropathy
  • Disturbances To Immune Systems (Asthma/Allergies)
  • Increases In Stillbirths {1}
  • Decreased Sperm Counts

What Are The Main Risks For Children?

Children whose homes and gardens are treated with pesticides have 6.5 times greater risk of leukemia than children living in untreated environments. {1,2}

  • Cancer: Leukemia And Brain Cancer
  • Asthma And Allergies
  • Polyneuritis With Numbness And Pain In Lower Limbs. {5}
  • Altered Neurological Functioning And Long-Lasting Neuro-Behavioral Impairments. {10}
  • Birth Defects
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Gangrene (Tissue Death) Of The Extremities

Who Is Most Susceptible?

Children, Infants And Fetuses: Relative To Adults, Children Have More Rapid Breathing And Metabolic Rates, Greater Surface To Body Mass Ratios, Thinner Skins, Spend More Time In Contact With The Ground, More Frequently Place Their Fingers In Their Mouths, And Are Less Likely To Be Able To Read Hazard Signs.
Adults: Especially Those With Asthma, Lupus Erythematosus, Vasculitis, Dermatitis And Chemical Sensitivities {1}.
Animals: Pets, Wildlife Of All Kinds And Their Habitat.

What Are The Effects On Animals And Wildlife?

Animals may develop:

  • Cancer
  • Abnormal Thyroid Function
  • Decreased Fertility
  • Decreased Hatching Success
  • Demasculinization And Feminization Of Males
  • Alteration Of Immune Function {10}
  • Birds Die After Eating Granular Pesticides.

What Are Synergistic Effects?

Simultaneous exposures frequently cause synergistic effects, where toxicities of individual toxins can be vastly magnified. Most pesticides contain more than one chemical and during spraying season, most people are exposed to more than one product as they move around their neighborhoods.

Studies for synergistic effects are not required by the EPA for registration of these substances {1}, even though these effects regularly occur when chemicals interact in nature {10}.

What About Unlisted “Inert” Ingredients?

  • 3700 Chemicals Can Legally Be Concealed In Pesticides.– Dr J. Irwin.
  • They Can Comprise Up To 97% Of Products Like Weed Killers.
  • These So Called Inerts Are Often Insecticides Such As Ddt Or Contaminants Such As Dioxin.
  • “Inerts” May Be Even More Toxic Than The Active Ingredients Which Are Listed On The Labels. {4} (Ie. Reyes Syndrome Was Linked To An Ingredient Additive That Allowed The Pesticide To Stick On The Trees.)
  • Fertilizer Sprays Also May Contain Poisonous Solvents.
  • Applicators Do Not Know The Danger Of Their Product Because They Don’t Know The Identity Of The”Inert” Ingredients.
  • Inerts Sometimes Include Benzene, Known Human Carcinogen (If It Were Spilled On The Highway, It Would Be Considered A Toxic Chemical Spill.) {11}

What Are The Alternatives?

Non-toxic chemical-free lawn care is available. Indoor and outdoor Bio-Tool kits are available for institutions, golf courses, schools, green houses and many applications. These approaches are compatible with composting, with home vegetable gardens, gardening for wildlife, and with children walking to school safely.

Chemical Pesticides have only been in existence for about 50 years. Gardeners, farmers, and foresters have always had to control pests, using methods like crop rotation, companion planting, biological controls. It is only recently that pest management has become virtually synonymous with the use of chemical pesticides. We must reverse this unsustainable trend. Ecological methods of pest control must replace the over-dependence on chemicals that now threatens us all.

Why Are Pesticides Used?

  • Most People Are Unaware Of Pesticide Dangers. (Most Companies Claim They Are “Safe”!)
  • Most People Do Not Know That Non-Toxic Lawn Care Is Available.
  • There Is A Powerful Economic Incentive For Large Chemical Companies To Promote Pesticides. In 1987 The Companies Ranked By Pesticide Sales Include: DuPont – $510 Million, Monsanto – $480 Million, ICI – $460 Million, Ciba Geigy $450 Million {1}. This, Today, Is Considered A Growth “Toxic” Industry.

How Effective Are Lawn Chemicals?

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides on lawns weaken the grass and destroy the natural balance of microbes and beneficial insect predators, thus promoting weed and insect proliferation.

  • Despite A 10 – Fold Increase In Insecticide Use, Studies Have Shown A Proliferation In Types Of Pests From Fewer Than 10 To More Than 300 {1}.
  • Of The 25 Most Serious Insect Pests In California In 1970, 24 Were Secondary Pests (Produced Because Of Insecticides) And 73% Are Resistant To One Or More Insecticides. {1}