CEU Series: Place Priority on Preventing Pesticide Poisoning

Pesticides are chemical compounds or biological agents that control pests. Pests include insects, mites, worms, fish, birds, animals, weeds, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Pests feed on crops and parasitize on livestock.

Pesticides are used widely in agriculture to control pests. It is estimated that on a worldwide basis, pests destroy up to a half of food supplies. Without pesticides the food losses could be even more significant. Pesticides increase work productivity, profits, and export incomes. Without world hunger would increase as would the price of food.

Pesticides are classified by target pests, chemical structure, physical state and application methods. They include insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, and antimicrobials. Pesticides control pests physically, chemically or biologically interfering with pest metabolism and behavior.

The word pesticide contains the element “-cide” that was borrowed from Latin and means “killer” or “killing.” Although modern agriculture would not be possible without the use of pesticides, many pesticides are toxic and may be dangerous to human health if used improperly. Because pesticides are toxic, they are potentially hazardous to humans, animals, other organisms, and the environment. Therefore, people who use pesticides or regularly come in contact with them must understand the relative toxicity, potential health effects, and preventative measures to reduce exposure to the products they use.

Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning

Pesticide applicators and handlers should be aware of the early signs and symptoms of poisoning.

The symptoms of pesticide poisoning are similar to those of other types of poisoning and of other diseases. Heat exhaustion, food poisoning, asthma, and other illnesses are sometimes confused with pesticide poisoning. Just because a person becomes ill after using or being around pesticides is not proof that he is poisoned.

The symptoms of poisoning described here may occur in a person who has been suddenly exposed to large quantities of a toxic material. They may also occur in a person who has been continuously exposed to smaller quantities of toxic material over longer periods of time. If the symptoms appear, call your doctor and tell him what pesticide was involved.

Acute poisoning is the severe poisoning which occurs after exposure to a single dose of pesticide. The appearance of symptoms may be sudden and dramatic or they may be delayed.

Chronic poisoning is the poisoning which occurs as a result of repeated, small, non-lethal doses over a long period of time. Many symptoms may appear, such as nervousness, slowed reflexes, irritability, or a general decline in health. Some test animals are unable to reproduce normally after repeated exposure to pesticides.

If you suspect you are suffering from pesticide exposure, you should seek medical assistance. In such cases, it is wise to warn the physician ahead of time, as many medical doctors may not be well informed as to the symptoms and treatment of pesticide poisoning. This is due to the few cases which they treat.

Pesticide poisoning symptoms may be similar to those of other illnesses and poisonings. You, the pesticide applicator, should tell your doctor which chemicals you use. Then he will know the symptoms and treatment, and can have the antidotes on hand.

Unfortunately, all pesticide poisoning symptoms are not the same. Each chemical family (i.e., organophosphates, carbamates, chlorinated hydrocarbons) can attack the human body in a different way. However, you should be aware of the general symptoms of pesticide poisoning.
The symptoms of pesticide poisoning can range from a mild skin irritation to coma or even death.

Mild poisoning or early symptoms of acute poisoning or includes headache, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, restlessness, nervousness, perspiration, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, loss of weight, thirst, moodiness, soreness in joints, skin irritation, eye irritation, irritation of the nose and throat.

Moderate poisoning or early symptoms of acute poisoning may cause additional symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, excessive saliva, stomach cramps, excessive perspiration, trembling, no muscle coordination, muscle twitches, extreme weakness, mental confusion, blurred vision, difficulty in breathing, cough, rapid pulse, flushed or yellow skin, weeping.

Severe or acute poisoning symptoms may induce fever, intense thirst, increased rate of breathing, vomiting, uncontrollable muscle twitches, pinpoint pupils, convulsions, inability to breathe, unconsciousness.

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