Types of Pesticides

A pesticide is any substance used to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate any pest. There are many different types of pesticides, each meant to kill or control specific pests. Some common types are:

  • Antimicrobials and Disinfectants - germs and microbes, such as bacteria and viruses
  • Fungicides - fungi like molds, mildews, and rusts
  • Herbicides including plant growth regulators and algaecides - plants or weeds
  • Insecticides including insect growth regulators - insects and arachnids
  • Repellents - repel insects and arachnids, such as mosquitoes, ticks, and mites
  • Rodenticides - rodents like mice, rats, and gophers
  • Wood Preservatives - make wood resistance to insects, fungi, and other pests

Are pesticides harmful to people?

Exposure to pesticides can harm people, animals, and the environment. The risk of health effects to people depends on several things, including the type or "chemical class" of pesticide, the amount and concentration of the pesticide, the length of exposure, the route of exposures (eye, mouth, skin, or lungs), and the exposed person's individual susceptibility.

Illness or injury that may result from a single pesticide exposure depends largely on the chemical "class" of the pesticide. Some classes of pesticides affect the nervous system. Others may irritate or burn the skin or eyes, or upset the stomach. Severe poisoning may result in respiratory failure, kidney damage or heart impacts and death. Knowledge of longer-time latent effects of exposures to pesticides is evolving rapidly, and some studies indicate that certain types of cancer, effects to the endocrine system that alter hormone levels, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, and the impacts that alter the capacity of children to develop and learn, may be present. The National Pesticide Information Center has more information about health effects of specific pesticide active ingredients.

How can I be exposed to pesticides?

Exposures occur when you come into contact with a pesticide and it enters the body through ingestion, inhalation, or contact with the skin or eyes. If a pesticide is in the air, it can be inhaled and may pass from the lungs into the bloodstream. If it is in food or water, or if it is accidentally swallowed, it can enter through the stomach. Certain pesticides may pass through the skin and be absorbed into the body. Exposure to skin, eyes, nose, and throat can also cause irritation or burns.

Examples of Pesticide Exposure

  • Household: Improper use, storage and application of household pesticides such as insect repellents, foggers, rodent poisons, weed killers, flea and tick control, and disinfectants can lead to poisonings. Learn how to safely manage pests at home or in multi-family housing settings. Complaints concerning pesticide misuse by a licensed pest control operator in a residential setting can be filed with Washington State Department of Agriculture, 1-877-301-4555.
  • Occupational: People employed in agriculture, pest control, landscape maintenance, or cleaning professions may come into contact with high concentrations and large volumes of pesticides. Risky activities include mixing, applying pesticides, weeding and hand harvesting crops. Workers may unknowingly expose their families by carrying pesticides into their homes on their bodies, clothes and shoes, or by washing their work clothes together with the rest of the family laundry.
  • Drift: Pesticide spray drift is the movement of pesticide dust and droplets through air from an area of application to any unintended site. Accidental exposure to pesticide drift can occur particularly by people living, working, or going to school in agricultural communities. Report suspected pesticide drifts from agricultural applications to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, 1-877-301-4555.

How can I reduce the risk of pesticide exposure?

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the most effective pest control method, with the least effects on people, pets, and the environment. Adopting IPM includes identifying the pest and making changes such as improving sanitation, or creating barriers to anticipate and prevent pest activity. Pesticides are sometimes used in an IPM plan if other methods have not successfully controlled the pest. When pesticides are used in an IPM plan, the least toxic and most effective product is used. Always read the pesticide product label first and follow instructions carefully.

Avoid exposure to pesticides used by others by finding out how pests are being controlled around you and your home. Ask if there are pest control policies at your workplace, your home (if you rent or live in a community or multi-family setting), and your child's school or daycare. Washington State law requires postings and notification for public schools and licensed daycare facilities when pesticides are used. Improve communication in your community so that you may be aware of pesticide applications around you. This is especially important if you live or work near agriculture.

Sensitive to pesticides? See how you can register with Washington State Department of Agriculture to be notified of landscaping or right-of-way pesticide applications near your home.

How can I report a suspected pesticide poisoning?

Report a pesticide incident:

Where can I get information about cases of pesticide illness in Washington?

Information about where pesticide exposures are most common in the state and which involved agricultural pesticide drift is available on the Washington Tracking Network. It also includes annual pesticide event summaries of the investigations into reports of pesticide poisonings. Pesticide Illness Data and Reports provides more pesticide incident reports and research articles.

Where can I get more information?

Notifiable Condition

Report Pesticide Poisoning



Content Source: Pesticide Program