Mainly comprised of plant protection products (PPP) and biocidal products, pesticides are designed to influence fundamental processes in living organisms.
Why should I be aware of this?
Pesticides may have the potential to kill or control harmful organisms such as pests, but can also cause unwanted adverse effects on non-target organisms, human health and the environment.
How does this affect me?
Laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems.
There might be other health problems that might occur over a long period of time. However, these effects depend on how toxic the pesticide is and how much of it is consumed. Some pesticides also pose unique health risks to children.
All about pesticides
The term pesticide is broadly used for pest control. Some common kinds of pesticides and their function:
- Algicides -- Control algae in lakes, canals, swimming pools, water tanks, and other sites.
- Antifouling agents -- Kill or repel organisms that attach to underwater surfaces, such as boat bottoms.
- Antimicrobials -- Kill microorganisms (such as bacteria and viruses).
- Attractants -- Attract pests (for example, to lure an insect or rodent to a trap). (However, food is not considered a pesticide when used as an attractant.)
- Biocides -- Kill microorganisms.
- Disinfectants and sanitizers -- Kill or inactivate disease-producing microorganisms on inanimate objects.
- Fungicides -- Kill fungi (including blights, mildews, molds, and rusts).
- Fumigants -- Produce gas or vapor intended to destroy pests in buildings or soil.
- Herbicides -- Kill weeds and other plants that grow where they are not wanted.
- Insecticides -- Kill insects and other arthropods.
- Miticides (also called acaricides) -- Kill mites that feed on plants and animals.
- Microbial pesticides --Microorganisms that kill, inhibit, or out compete pests, including insects or other microorganisms.
- Molluscicides -- Kill snails and slugs.
- Nematicides --Kill nematodes (microscopic, worm-like organisms that feed on plant roots).
- Ovicides -- Kill eggs of insects and mites.
- Pheromones -- Biochemicals used to disrupt the mating behavior of insects.
- Repellents -- Repel pests, including insects (such as mosquitoes) and birds.
- Rodenticides -- Control mice and other rodents.
Pesticides are not just chemicals, but include a very large range of different types of products. Some are natural (eg, pyrethrums, obtained from chrysanthemums), while many are altered versions of natural chemicals. Did you know that all of these common products are considered pesticides?
- Cockroach sprays and baits
- Insect repellents for personal use.
- Rat and other rodent poisons.
- Flea and tick sprays, powders, and pet collars.
- Kitchen, laundry, and bath disinfectants and sanitizers.
- Products that kill mold and mildew.
- Some lawn and garden products, such as weed killers.
- Some swimming pool chemicals.
The term pesticide also includes these substances:
- Defoliants -- Cause leaves or other foliage to drop from a plant, usually to facilitate harvest.
- Desiccants -- Promote drying of living tissues, such as unwanted plant tops.
- Insect growth regulators -- Disrupt the molting, maturity from pupal stage to adult, or other life processes of insects.
- Plant growth regulators -- Substances (excluding fertilizers or other plant nutrients) that alter the expected growth, flowering, or reproduction rate of plants.
What is not a pesticide?
- Drugs used to control diseases of humans or animals (such as livestock and pets) are not considered pesticides.
- Fertilizers, nutrients, and other substances used to promote plant survival and health are not considered plant growth regulators and thus are not pesticides.
- Biological control agents, except for certain microorganisms, are exempted from regulation by EPA. (Biological control agents include beneficial predators such as birds or ladybugs that eat insect pests.)
- Low-risk substances, such as cedar chips, garlic, and mint oil are also not a considered a pesticide by the US government.
Pesticide and the environment
- Environmental pollution
- Contamination of ground water, surface water, soils and food. This consequently impacts the wildlife and human health.
- The use and abuse of pesticides has disturbed the ecological balance between pests and their predators in developed and developing countries. The lesser developed countries still do not use as much pesticide as does the industrialized world, however pesticide use in many third world countries is not as regulated as it is in the developed countries.
- Pesticides also harm beneficial pests and organisms and thereby affect the food chain and biodiversity of species.
What can I do?
- Avoid using pesticides if possible.
- If pest control can be done through alternative means, then go for it.
- Opt for green pest control methods.
- Read labels carefully before choosing a pesticidePesticide and environment==
- Choose the least toxic product for the job.
- Make sure the product will kill the pest(s) you have identified.
- Make sure the product is safe for use on the plant.
- Never use pesticides on edible plants unless the label says you can do so, and then follow directions carefully.
- Find out what are the hazards to children or pets; water or fish; wildlife; beneficial insects and ripe vegetables and fruits.
- Check if you have the application equipment and the protective clothing and gear required by the label.
- See if the pesticide is ready-mixed. If it is not, then it might be difficult or messy to measure, mix, and load.
- Carefully read disposal directions and see if it is possible for you to dispose off the chemical and container in a proper manner.
- The lifespan of ladybugs was reduced to half when they ate aphids that had fed on genetically altered potatoes in Scotland. The ladybugs also laid fewer eggs.
- Pesticides are one of the causes behind the drastic decline of honeybees that pollinate plants and many commercial crops. The decline threatens not only biodiversity but the world's food supply, scientists say.
- Children in agricultural communities are being exposed to pesticides at higher levels than federal regulators consider safe.
- In 1988, pesticide -- polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) was primarily responsible for the death of about 20,000 European harbor and gray seals, that represented 60% of the local population.
- A combination of two commonly used agricultural pesticides, when injected into mice, causes the same pattern of brain damage seen in Parkinson's disease, researchers said. 
- What is a Pesticide? U.S. EPA Office of Pesticide Programs 14feb97
- Pesticide Safety – It’s Common Sense; West Virginia University