What Are the Dangers of Pesticide Exposure?

pesticide exposure

Pesticides and insecticides are designed to kill pests, invasive species and protect agriculture and homes. Many such pesticides are generally safe to humans in smaller concentrations, such as those used in home extermination. However, in larger concentrations or extended exposure can be toxic and cause short and long-term health conditions.

Children are the most vulnerable to pesticide poisoning from exposure due to their developing organs and immune and nervous systems. Infants and young children are more at risk as their bodies are unable to detoxify and excrete pesticides as adult bodies do, and exposure to certain pesticides in the early development stages can cause permanent damage. Additionally, children have more skin in their younger years than adults and have higher respiratory rates, making skin transmittal and inhalation of pesticides occur much more easily and faster than adults.

What Are Common Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning?

Many symptoms of pesticide poisoning are the same as many other illnesses, including the cold and flu, and are often mistaken as such. Pesticide handlers are most at-risk not only for their direct exposure, but for their illness being incorrectly identified. Those who work with organophosphate or carbamate insecticides in warm or hot environments exhibit nearly identical symptoms to heat exposure, which is often immediately assumed is the cause. Symptoms of pesticide poisoning include:

  • Central nervous system depression
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Loss of coordination
  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Slowed pulse
  • Unconsciousness and coma
  • Watery eyes, tears, and small pupils

Pesticide poisoning is frequently misdiagnosed and under-reported due to similar or identical symptoms to other illnesses. Additionally, the immediate symptoms are not often severe enough to cause the sufferer to seek medical treatment, nor do doctors immediately consider pesticide poisoning during diagnosis.

If you think your symptoms and illness are caused by pesticides or insecticides, seek medical attention immediately, especially if you regularly work with or in close proximity of these chemical agents.

What Health Effects Does Pesticide Poisoning Cause?

Pesticide poisoning results in two types of health effects: acute and chronic. Both acute and chronic effects of pesticide poisoning can be immediately present and/or on-going.

Acute symptoms and health effects are those that present immediately following exposure to pesticides and include:

  • Burning, stinging, and itchy skin, along with rashes and blisters
  • Death
  • Irritation to the nose, mouth, and throat
  • Nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea
  • Stinging eyes or blindness

Those with asthma frequently have severe and potentially life-threatening reactions, especially with pyrethrin/pyrethroid, organophosphate, and carbamate pesticides.

Chronic health effects are long-term, often life-long or severe illnesses, such as:

  • Cancer: Pesticides have been found to lead to leukemia, lymphoma and breast, brain, prostate, testicular, and ovarian cancers.
  • Reproductive harm: Pesticides are known to cause reproductive harm as still birth, spontaneous abortion, birth defects, sterility, and infertility.
  • Endocrine disruptors: Some chemical pesticides have been found to have serious health effects on bodily functions, even at low doses. These chemicals block or mimic hormones which travel through blood and regulate bodily functions, such as brain development, metabolism, stress and sleep responses.
  • Organ damage: Certain pesticides have been linked to organ damage and failure to the liver, kidneys, and lungs, and potentially others.

Chronic conditions frequently do not present symptoms of these types of serious health conditions for weeks, months, or even years after exposure to harmful pesticides.

Additionally, acute and chronic health effects can differ depending on the type of pesticide you are exposed to, such as:

  • Organophosphates and carbamates: This class of pesticides function as a type of nerve gas which attacks the central nervous system and the brain, interrupting the transmission of nerve signals. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chest and muscle pain, and confusion. Symptoms of severe poisoning include severe difficulty breathing, convulsions, incontinence, coma, and death. Hundreds of thousands of people each year suffer acute poisoning of the nervous system from organophosphates and carbamates, a popular pesticide used throughout the world.
  • Soil fumigants: As its name implies, this type of pesticide is applied to soil, forming a toxic gas to eradicate fungi, bacteria, insects, nematodes, and plants within the soil. Over time the gases escapes, becoming airborne and exposing those who live or work nearby. Symptoms of fumigant poisoning include skin, eye, and lung irritation, premature birth, reproductive problems, and cancers.
  • Pyrethroids: An insecticide, pyrethroids are a synthetic chemical with similar structure of botanical compounds, designed to eliminate insect pests in homes, public buildings, agriculture, and in animals. In small concentrations, such as home extermination, pyrethroids are generally harmless to humans. Higher concentrations, however, are toxic to the nervous system and causes symptoms such as headache, fatigue, tremors, involuntary twitching, salivation, vomiting, and stinging, itchy skin. Several pyrethroids can cause serious long-term health complications, such as cancer, reproductive harm, heart disease, genetic damage, and are potentially dangerous to unborn babies who may not be able to break down the chemicals during fetal stage.

Who Is Responsible for My Pesticide Exposure?

Determining who is responsible for pesticide exposure can be challenging. People who suffer from pesticide poisoning health conditions, but do not work in a profession with regular exposure often have difficult determining where the exposure took place and who manufactured the dangerous chemical. Especially in cases where an illness, such as cancer, is diagnosed many years after exposure.

Residents who live in close proximity to an industrial area with multiple factories may encounter exposure with airborne chemicals may have an especially difficult time determining which factory may have caused the exposure. Typically, toxic poisoning cases sue all involved, such as:

  • The manufacturers and distributors of the pesticide or insecticide.
  • The manufacturers and distributors of the equipment or devices that exposed employees to the toxic chemicals.
  • Owners and leasers of the property, buildings, and companies where the toxic exposure took place or where the parties stored the chemicals.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) was designed to reduce pesticide-related injuries and poisonings among pesticide handlers and agricultural workers. Over two million agricultural workers and pesticide handlers who work at over 600,000 agricultural businesses, and farmworkers and family members are protected by the WPS to limit pesticide exposure and subsequent poisonings and illnesses.

Plainfield Environmental Lawyers at Herold Law, P.A. Represent Clients Suffering Illness or Injury Due to Pesticide Exposure Poisoning

If you are experiencing symptoms or chronic illness due to pesticide or insecticide exposure, our experienced Plainfield environmental lawyers at Herold Law, P.A. are available to represent you. Call us at today 908-647-1022 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Warren, New Jersey. We represent clients in Warren, Plainfield, and throughout New Jersey.