Harmful Effects of Chemical Pesticides on Human Health – Types and Dangers

What are pesticides?

Pesticides are substances that are meant to control pests, which also include weed. According to World Health Organization (WHO), Pesticides are chemical compounds that are used to kill pest, including insects, rodents, fungi, and other unwanted plants (such as weed).

Although the major advantages of pesticides are used by farmers to protect their crops, pesticides are also widely used in public to kill mosquitoes and cockroaches in their house. Pesticides are common, in terms of usage, because they can control pests, plant disease vectors, human or livestock disease vectors, nuisance organisms, and organisms that harm human activities.

There are many chemical pesticides that can be found. Some of them can be seen as listed below.

1. Glyphosate

Glyphosate is a pesticide that is categorized as herbicide, which means that it is used to kill plants. Glyphosate is commonly used by farmers to kill weeds. Weed is considered by farmers as pest that damages their crops. Weeds cause problem to the farmers by stealing water, sunlight, and even the nutrients from crops that farmers grow.

2. Acephate

Acephate is a pesticide that is categorized as insecticides, which means that is meant to kill insects. Acephate has been used since 1970s. It is commonly used by farmers to protect their crops from leaf miners, caterpillars, sawflies, thrips, and fire ants.


N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, or more commonly known as DEET, is a widely used ingredient in many insect repellent products. It is usually found in a slightly yellow oil form and intended to be used by applying it to the skin or clothing. It is used to protect us from mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, leeches, and many biting insects.

4. Propoxur

Propoxur is an insecticide that was first introduced in 1959. It is more commonly known as Baygon in the market. This insecticide is widely used by household because it kills household pests, like cockroaches, flies, and mosquitoes. Popoxur is also used in malaria control activities and flea collars for pets. It is known to have a fast knockdown and a long residual effect.

5. Metaldehyde

Metaldehyde is a pesticide that is commonly used to protect horticultural crops and household gardens. It is known to kill gastropods pest, like snails and slugs.

6. Boric acid

Boric acid is one example of pesticide that has many benefits. It is mainly used as insecticide (to get rid of bugs and cockroaches). Boric acid can also be used as an ear drops. It is also a good antiseptic for yeast infection treatment. Another use of boric acid is that it is used for curing toe fungus (and other fungal infection). 

7. Diazinon

Diazinon is a pesticide that is heavily used during 1970s-early 1980s for indoor pest control. It is used to control cockroaches, silverfish, ants, and fleas in a household.

8. Dursban

Dursban is one of the market names of Chlorphyrifos. Chlorphyrifos is a pesticide that is usually used to protect crops from foliage and soil borne insects.

9. DDT

Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or commonly known as DDT, is a pesticide that is originally developed to kill insects in the 1940s. It is a colorless, tasteless, and almost odorless compound. It was initially effective in fighting malaria, typhus, and other insect borne human disease. DDT was used by farmers to protect their crop from insects and by household until it was banned by EPA in 1972.

Types of pesticides

Based on what organisms that they killed, pesticides can be classified into 7 types. Types of pesticides can be seen as listed below.

  • Insecticides: It is a type of pesticides that is used to kill insects. Examples of insecticides are bug sprays, insects repellents, ant and roach baits, garden spray, flea and tick collar, moth balls.
  • Herbicides: It is a type of pesticides that is used to kill plants. Example of Herbicides is weed killer.
  • Rodenticides: It is a type of pesticides that is used to kill rodents (such as rats and mice). Example of rodenticides is rat bait stations.
  • Bactericides: It is a type of pesticides that is used to kill bacteria. Bactericides are also known as disinfectants. Examples of this type of pesticides are bleach and ammonia.
  • Fungicides: It is a type of pesticides that is used to kill fungi. Examples of fungicides are rose and flower sprays and paint additives.
  • Larvicides: It is a type of pesticides that is used to kill larvae

There are also types of pesticides that are classified on how biodegradable they are. Those types can be seen as listed below.

  • Biodegradable

Biodegradable is a type of pesticides that can be broken down or decomposed by microbes and other organisms into a harmless compound

  • Persistent

Persistent is a type of pesticides that may need months or even years just to be broken down. 

Harmful effects of chemical compounds pesticides on human health

Although pesticides are made to kill “pest”, they may impact other than just pest. Pesticides can possibly lead to acute toxicity, which means that they can cause harmful or lethal effects after short term of ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact.

Those harmful effects of chemical pesticides on human health can be seen by the symptoms that are listed below.

  • Respiratory tract irritation
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Allergic sensitization
  • Eye irritation
  • Skin irritation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Extreme weakness
  • Seizures
  • Death

After a continuous exposure, even at a low level, pesticides may lead to long term toxicity. It may not cause immediate effects, but it can be very serious. Long term exposure of pesticides may lead to several diseases that are listed below.

  • Development of Parkinson’s disease
  • Asthma
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Cancer (including leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma)
  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders (ADHD)

Harmful effects of pesticides on the environment

There are many harmful effects of chemical pesticides on human health. The released toxic of pesticides may not only killed pest, but also they may enter the air, water, and sediments that can potentially end up in our food. Pesticides also decrease the biodiversity of a soil, which reduces the quality of the soil because of chemicals that also lessen the water retention and plants can’t grow healthy.