Side Effects of Pest Control Chemicals

Humans have always wanted to have perfect control over their environment. Control over the temperature, humidity, light etc. All these stem from the need to control the space in which s/he inhabits.

This need for controlled to the development of different devices and substances that help keep our space within our control. We have fences and gates that keep other humans and some animals out and of course, we developed pest control to keep out pesky pests.

Sadly, we have discovered that while the chemicals used in these pest controls were helping us exterminate and keep away pests, they were also having some side effects on our bodies. How does this happen?

When these pest control chemicals are sprayed, humans breathe some of them in, some of them settle on the skin and are absorbed into the body while some settle on the food we eat and we ingest them orally. These are the three ways through which they get into our system.

Some of the most common active ingredients used in pest control chemicals include Abamectin, Cyfluthrin, Fipronil, Permethrin, Bifenthrin, Hydramethylnon, Pyrethrum, Boric Acid, Deltamethrin, IGR (Insect Growth Regulator).

Side Effects

Exposure to the chemicals listed above can have some side effects. These side effects could be immediate or could emerge after prolonged exposure. They also affect not just humans but our pets also.

Let’s start by looking at side effects on our pets.

Side Effects on Pets

Your pets are exposed to these harmful pest controls in a number of ways. They could run around or lie down in treated areas and then lick these chemicals off their furs as they groom themselves.

They could also breathe these chemicals in or the chemicals might have been applied directly to them to treat fleas and ticks. Either way, they are also very exposed to these chemicals.

Some of the side effects your pet is likely to exhibit include: Anorexia, fever, increased heart rate, vomiting, hypersalivation, diarrhea, seizures, depression, constricted pupils, muscle tremors, respiratory failure (difficulty breathing) and lack of coordination (problem walking normally).

Your pet can exhibit any of these side effects or could just be restless, behaving in a funny manner. This behavior can last anywhere from a few days to weeks. Your pet will need to be attended to by a vet for decontamination and administering of antidotal treatment.

It is important to note that continued exposure to these chemicals can lead to health complications that may even lead to the death of the pet.

Side Effects on Humans

Humans are involved in every instance of pest control use whether in the home, in the yard, in the field, in the farm of even on pets. Humans are exposed to them all. In looking at the side effects that humans can suffer, we will break them into three parts – immediate side effects, side effect after prolonged exposure and other possible side effects.

Immediate Side Effect

These include side effects that can occur immediately a person is exposed to a pest control chemical. Of course, this will differ from person to person. Some of the most common immediate side effects include dizziness, headache, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive eye watering, blurred vision, excess saliva, and sweating.

Remember that a person can be exposed briefly to a very light dose of the chemicals while another can be exposed to a very large dose of the chemical and intensely too. The side effects suffered by these two will not be the same.

With heavy exposure, tightness in the chest can be experienced with heart rate changes. Breathing difficulties can also be experienced along with twitching and difficulty to walk in a coordinated manner. It could also result in the constriction of the pupils and even a loss of control over urination and excretion. If it gets much more severe, the individual could lose consciousness or suffer a seizure.

Side Effect After Prolonged Exposure

An individual could be exposed to these chemicals in very small amounts without any immediate side effects. But as the deposit of toxic substances from these chemicals builds up in that individual’s body, there will come a time when side effects may begin to show.

Some of the side effects that may show up after prolonged exposure include a general feeling of being unwell, fatigue, constant weakness and inability to concentrate or to remember things.

These side effects are, of course, an indication of deeper, underlying conditions. The extent to which these side effects will be exhibited will depend, to a large extent, on certain factors which will include the age of the individual, the existing health condition of the individual, the type of chemically exposed to and the extent of the exposure.

Other Possible Side Effects

Under this category, we will be looking at conditions that are currently being strongly linked to pest control chemicals based on some evidence. Though these are not necessarily 100% confirmed, there are strong indications that these claims may not be far from the truth.

Some of these side effects we will be looking at include Skin conditions, respiratory disorders, organ failures, cancer, brain damage, sterility and infertility, and birth defects.

Skin Conditions – With these harmful chemicals settling on the skin and being absorbed into the body, skin conditions like rashes, cutaneous toxicity and infections are likely to spring up. When the quantity of toxic materials absorbed is immense, serious toxic reactions could occur, setting off more serious health complications.

Respiratory Disorder – Constant exposure to pest control chemicals have been linked to increased respiratory disorders. These include difficulty in breathing, chronic bronchitis, wheezing, asthma, and others.

Organ Failures – The increased cases of organ failure being reported world over again points an accusing finger at pest control chemicals. In a particular study, it was found that in about the last 7 years in India, the number of deaths reported from intestinal nephritis or chronic kidney disease increased drastically. Interestingly, a majority of these victims worked on farms where they were exposed to intense levels of chemicals used to treat plants against pests. They also ate produce from the farms which had residues of these chemicals on them.

While it has not been fully ascertained if eating this chemical-laced farm produce led to the kidney diseases or worsened it, it is at least known that it is the kidney’s task to remove these toxins from the body, a task that could lead to the eventual failure of that organ.

Cancer – While a number of factors have been linked to cancer, there is sufficient evidence to show that exposure to pest control chemicals may also be a major contributor to the formation of cancerous cells in various organs in the body.

Brain Damage – There is evidence to show that prolonged exposure to these pest control chemicals can lead to MCD (mild cognitive dysfunction) and general long-term brain damage. This makes farmers and gardeners who use pesticides a lot of high-risk individuals. Evidence also shows that some developmental issues and even brain damage in children may be linked to exposure to pest control chemicals.

Sterility and Infertility – Scientists are now linking low sperm count and general infertility in women and men to prolonged exposure to these chemicals. Though people who work in farms are thought to be higher risk, the worldwide decline in sperm counts appears to suggest that eating foods with chemical residue on them and the increased use of pesticides in homes around the world may also be factors.

Birth Defects – There is now serious concern that the use of home and household pesticides maybe be having damaging effects on unborn babies. It is now thought that exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy could increase the risk of birth defects such as heart defects, oral clefts, and others.

High Risk Persons

Though everyone (including pets) is at risk with regards to exposure to pest control chemicals and the health implication of this, some people are more susceptible than others. The elderly are more likely to be hard hit if exposed to these harmful chemicals than young persons.

Another group of persons is nursing and pregnant women. Exposure to these chemicals may have a more adverse effect on them than others. Lastly, we have infants and children who may have their developmental process affected by these chemicals.


There is no doubt that these chemicals cause some health issues. While it may not be totally realistic to do away with them completely at least for now, some care should be taken to drastically reduce their introduction into the body while being used.


Main editor

Expert in mosquito control and the main website editor at Karen started InsectCop to help people get rid of mosquitoes. But now she gives advice an all things pest control.

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