Adult Effects


Certain chemicals in pesticides have been linked to disruptions of and negative effects on human fertility, reproduction and development, including reduced sperm count in men. They have been linked to skin and eye irritations and asthma. They can cause kidney, liver damage and cancer. Pesticides have been linked to Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. They have been shown to cause nervous system damage.


In tests by the Environmental Working Group, umbilical cords revealed an average of 287 contaminants in the blood, including pesticides. “In 1990, some 79,000 children experienced pesticide poisonings or exposures.”

Berkson Hormone Disruption

Household and garden pesticide use can increase risk of childhood leukemia as much as seven-fold. Parks are often sprayed with chemicals. Children being lower to the ground inhale and touch more of the pesticides than adults which can affect development. Pesticide residue remains on the grass even after it is dry. Pesticides are also sprayed on school lawns and plants. Check with your school to see what types of lawn care programs they have in place. If you feel they are not safe, petition your school to change their methods.


Pets such as cats and dogs that are left out on lawns shortly after spraying suffer the greatest exposure to pesticides. A 1991 National Cancer Institute study found dogs were twice as likely to contract malignant lymphoma (similar to non-Hodgkins) if their owners treated their lawns with 2,4-D (now outlawed), a type of pesticide, four or more times per year. Long-term affects can include cancer. By licking the grass, or chewing toys sprayed with pesticides, animals can experience disruptions to their nervous systems and even death. Exposure can come through licking contaminated paws and coat, eating contaminated grass, soil and toys. Be sure to store pesticides in places where animals cannot get them.

Environmental Effects

Some chemicals run off into our water resources, such as rivers and lakes. Others sink into the soil and contaminate groundwater. According to the Environmental Working Group, one hundred communities of over three million people drank tap water contaminated with five or more toxic weed killers years after the water utilities had begun cleanup of the water. Amphibians are dying because of Roundup sold by Monsanto. While Monsanto warns Roundup isn’t meant to be used near water, it’s hard to avoid wetlands and shallow puddles. Polar bears are contaminated with pesticides and chemicals. As pesticides move throughout the air, they are now found in all parts of the world. Pesticides are carried by lower level fish that polar bears feed on.



Pesticides can be carried in through windows and doors. Residues can be found in carpets up to a year after application on outdoor lawns. If you know when a spraying is going to take place, close windows and keep children and pets inside. Placing a mat at your door and making sure you wipe your feet well can reduce the amount of pesticides you carry in.

Townhomes and Communities

Sometimes all it takes is a letter. I lived in a town house in Bucktown for several years. I wrote a letter to the Home-Owner’s Association detailing the effects of pesticides, had the issue brought up before the board. Since then the complex has been chemical free. I also requested that if they spray for any type of insect infestation they must notify me in advance so I can keep my windows and doors closed.

Golf Courses

Most golf courses spray chemicals on their grass to keep it green. In general they use four times more pesticides per acre than farms. If you live near a golf course, ask them what days and times they spray so you can be sure to keep your windows shut. Ask them what they are using and look into alternatives. Public reaction is effective. If the owners are uncooperative about giving you information, consider starting a petition in the community to stop using pesticides. This is a health issue.

Types of Pesticides


These chemicals kill weeds or inhibit plant growth. Seventy-one million pounds were used on homes and gardens in 2001. Insecticides: Chemicals used to prevent or kill insects that may damage crops or gardens. Seventeen million pounds were used in 2001. Broad-spectrum insecticides kill more beneficial insects than harmful ones. Fungicides: Used to prevent fungi which can cause plant disease. Twelve million pounds were used in 2001.

While the dosage of one spraying of chemicals is not fatal to humans, the tests done on pesticides and chemicals do not take into consideration the long-term effects of exposure.



Danger: highly toxic Warning: moderately toxic Caution: slightly toxic. When using pesticides wear gloves and a mask while applying the chemicals. Wash your hands thoroughly after application. Wipe feet before entering the house. Keep pets and children off the lawn for 24 hours after application. Wear long sleeve shirts and pants to avoid skin exposure as pesticides can be absorbed through the skin. Wash clothes separately from other clothes before wearing them again.

A Few Common Pesticides

2,4-D (now mostly banned)

The chemical 2,4-D comprised about 50% of the product Agent Orange used in Vietnam. Linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the second fastest growing cancer in humans in the US during the past 15 years. Endocrine disruptor. Linked to reduced sperm count. May cause cancer in animals. May cause skin and eye irritation. Can cause anorexia and damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system. Can cause depression and lethargy.


According to D. Lindsey Berkson in Hormone Deception, Atrazine is as damaging as DDT in the way it alters the body’s ability to metabolize estrogen. Animal studies show liver, heart and kidney damage, tumors in the uterus and breast and hormone disruption. Glyphosate (Roundup):One of the most toxic herbicides and the third most commonly reported cause of pesticide related illness among agricultural workers. Linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Also linked to learning disabilities and behavior problems in children. Leads to risks of miscarriages and premature births. Linked to heart palpitations, nausea, numbness and elevated blood pressure. In Australia and Europe, Monsanto sells Roundup Biactive a version that is not harmful to amphibians. Why isn’t that option available in the US? One of Monsanto’s reasons is that Roundup Biactive would be subject to rigorous EPA approvals.


Chemically related to nerve gases developed during WWII Linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Methyl Bromide

According to the NY Times, this chemical is considered more destructive to the ozone layer than some banned chemicals. Linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer in farm workers.

Organochlorines: Lindane, Endosulfan, Methoxychor and Dicofol

Break down slowly in humans and remain in the environment for years. Linked to harmful effects on fertility, reproduction and development.


Linked to elevated levels of breast cancer.


Don’t recycle pesticide containers as they may leach small amounts of the toxic chemicals. Dispose of them as directed on the label.

Good news

Arcata California, Cleveland Heights Ohio, Santa Barbara California: all have local policies banning hazardous pesticides. Seattle designated six parks as pesticide free in 2001. Wichita, Kansas plans to ban pesticides in ten parks.

In Canada

At least fifty municipalities restrict or have banned the use of pesticides on public and private properties. Other cities have followed suit. The Canadian Supreme Court decided that cities and towns can place bans on pesticides without scientific proof that the pesticide is harmful. The public has the right to protect itself if they believe they are at risk.

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