Side Effects of Pest Control Chemicals

Humans have always wanted to have perfect control over their environment. We want to control the temperature, humidity, light, etc., all of which stems from our need to control the space we inhabit.

This need for control has led to the development of different devices and substances to help keep our personal areas under our control. For that, we have fences and gates that keep other humans and some animals out. And, of course, we’ve developed a wide range of pest control products to keep those pesky pests out.

Sadly, while the chemicals used in these pest control products are helping us exterminate and repel pests, they’ve also been having some side effects on our bodies. But how does this happen?

When we spray these pest control chemicals, humans breathe some of them in. Some will settle on the skin or get in our eyes before being absorbed into the body. Still, others settle on the food we eat or land in our drinking water, so we ingest them orally. These are the four ways that these chemicals can get into our system.

Some of the most common active ingredients used in pest control chemicals include:

  • pyrethroids such as cyfluthrin, permethrin, bifenthrin, and deltamethrin,
  • fipronil,
  • baits like hydramethylnon,
  • botanicals like pyrethrum,
  • low-toxicity options like boric acid and diatomaceous earth, and
  • insect growth regulators (IGRs) such as methoprene and pyriproxifen.

Side Effects

Exposure to the chemicals listed above can have some side effects, which can be immediate or can emerge after prolonged exposure. They affect not just humans, but our pets as well.

Let’s start by looking at the side effects pest control chemicals can have on our furry friends.

Side Effects on Pets

Your pets can be exposed to these harmful pest control chemicals in many different ways. For example, they could run around or lie down in treated areas and then lick these chemicals off their fur when grooming themselves.

They could also breathe these chemicals in. You might even apply these chemicals directly to their fur to treat fleas and ticks. Either way, our pets are also very exposed to these chemicals.

Some of the side effects your pet is likely to exhibit include:

  • decreased appetite,
  • fever,
  • increased heart rate,
  • vomiting,
  • increased salivation,
  • diarrhea,
  • seizures,
  • depression,
  • muscle tremors,
  • weakness,
  • difficulty breathing, and
  • loss of coordination.

Your pet can exhibit any of these side effects. They could also just be restless or behaving funnily. This behavior can show up within hours of exposure or take days to appear. If exposed, your pet will probably need veterinary treatment.

It’s important to note that continued exposure to these chemicals can lead to further health complications. Sometimes, they can even lead to the death of the pet. So, be careful and be aware.

Side Effects on Humans

Pest control use, whether in the home, in the yard, in the field, in the farm, or even on pets, requires human involvement, which also implies human exposure to the chemicals. When looking at the side effects that humans can suffer, we’ll break them into three parts: immediate side effects, side effects after prolonged exposure, and other possible side effects.

Immediate Side Effects

These are the side effects that can occur immediately after human exposure to a pest control chemical. Of course, these symptoms will vary from person to person. Some of the most common immediate side effects include:

  • skin irritation (burning, itching, and/or a rash),
  • mouth irritation,
  • sore throat,
  • chest pain,
  • dizziness,
  • headache,
  • stomach cramps,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • diarrhea,
  • eye irritation/watering, and
  • blurred vision.

Remember that doses can vary. One person could briefly encounter a very light dose of the chemicals while another might find themselves with intense exposure to a very large dose of the chemical. The side effects suffered in those two cases wouldn’t be the same.

After heavy exposure, you can experience tightness in the chest along with heart rate changes. Breathing difficulties can occur as well as twitching and/or difficulty walking in a coordinated manner. This exposure could also result in pupil constriction or even a loss of control over urination. If the symptoms get much more severe, the individual could lose consciousness or suffer a seizure.

Side Effects 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 builds up in that individual’s body, there will come a time when some 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 an inability to concentrate or to remember things.

These side effects are, of course, a sign of deeper, underlying conditions. The extent to which different people exhibit these side effects will depend, to a large extent, on factors like their age, their health condition, and the type and extent of the chemical exposure.

Other Possible Side Effects

Now, we’ll look at conditions that are currently 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 include skin conditions, respiratory disorders, organ failure, cancer, brain damage, sterility, infertility, and birth defects.

  • Skin Conditions: With these harmful chemicals settling on the skin, skin conditions like rashes, cutaneous toxicity, and infections are likely to appear. When there is a huge quantity of toxic materials absorbed into the body from the skin, serious toxic reactions could occur. These, in turn, can set off more serious health complications.
  • Respiratory Disorders: Constant exposure to pest control chemicals has been linked to increased respiratory disorders, which include difficulty breathing, chronic bronchitis, wheezing, asthma, and more.
  • Organ Failure: Multiorgan failure can be an effect of acute pesticide exposure. A review of epidemiological literature found a relationship between agricultural work involving pesticides and chronic kidney disease in Sri Lanka, India, and the United States. Another study found a correlation between pesticide exposure (including the insecticide permethrin) and kidney disease.
  • Cancer: Many factors have been linked to cancer. There is also sufficient evidence to show that exposure to pest control chemicals may be a major contributor to the formation of cancerous cells in various organs in the body.
  • Brain Damage: There is evidence that prolonged exposure to some pest control chemicals can lead to mild cognitive dysfunction (MCD) and general long-term brain damage. This makes farmers and gardeners who use pesticides high-risk individuals. In addition, the evidence links some developmental issues and even brain damage in children to certain pest control chemicals. The most notable of these is chlorpyrifos, which California has banned and which will no longer be manufactured after 2020.
  • Sterility and Infertility: Scientists are now linking low sperm count and general infertility in women and men to prolonged exposure to these chemicals. While people who work on farms are thought to be at higher risk, eating foods with pesticide residue on them has also been linked to infertility.
  • Birth Defects: There is now serious concern that the use of pesticides in the home may have damaging effects on the fetus. It’s now thought that exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy could increase the risk of birth defects. These birth defects include heart defects, oral clefts, and more.

High-Risk People

All of us, including our pets, are at risk of exposure to pest control chemicals. In regards to the health implications of this exposure, some people are more susceptible than others. The elderly are more likely to be hit hard if exposed to these harmful chemicals than younger people.

Another higher-risk group includes nursing and pregnant women. Exposure to these chemicals may have a stronger effect on them than others. Lastly, these chemicals can affect the developmental process in infants and children.


There’s no doubt that these chemicals cause some health issues. It may not be totally realistic to do away with them completely, at least for now. Until then, we should be careful when using these chemicals. This is the only way we can reduce the possibilities of their entering our bodies and those of our loved ones, whether human or pet.


Despina Klock

We rented a condo in Naples Florida and I woke up from a sound sleep with rapid heart beat. Had to go to the ER two times. Could this be the result of exposure to bug spray done before we got there?


    Some pesticides might affect the heartbeat. You should check what kind of ingredients the product has in it and their side effects specifically. I don’t think the spray will be at fault, though. So you should consult doctors for other possible causes since this does sound like a rather serious issue.

Peter Pawluk

We packaged IGRegulator at our plant. I did not wear a mask because the smell was not bad. At the end of my shift (1:30am), I was driving home and developed a bad nose bleed from my right nostral. It stopped after 30 minutes. My next shift I wore a facemask except for the last 2 hours and developed a nose bleed again in the same nostral. Once again, after 20 minutes it stopped. Next two nights I wore the mask for the whole shift and no problems. The last night of my work week, I had to go into the area where the product was and didn’t wear a mask, only in area for about 6 minutes. Got home that night and showered and while drying off, nose bleed again, same side. I am now on vacation, away from work and just had a bleed again. The bleeding starts quickly and stops like someone turned a valve off. I have not sneezed or touch nose when it bleeds. My blood pressure was checked 3 weeks ago, 123 over 80. I am losing some weight and not drinking beer as much. I researched the product and can’t find much on it. Maybe you can explain what is going on. I think the product may be a petroleum base.


    You should go see a doctor if you have any changes in your overall health after having used any pesticides.

Denise McNamara

I live in Florida where we have weekly sprays of Kontrol. I was outside working on my car and the truck they use came by and puffed out Kontrol after that happened I went into the house where my arms started itching bumps rose on my arms appeared and a redness. I went to the doctors he said it looked like hives. I was wondering if it was from the pesticide???


    Yes, it’s advised to come into contact with the pesticide, as you might develop an allergic reaction. Though, as far as we know, it should go away without leaving any long-term complications. If this ever happens again, we suggest removing the clothes and rinsing the skin with water for 15 minutes or so. It’s also a good thing you went to see a doctor.


Hi I live in South Africa;I spray the pest control on my vegetables. Is it advice to eat the vegetable after washing them(Doom,blue death) multi insect powder? Is for gardens nd home.


    I haven’t had experience with this product, nor could I find a full label of it. So I won’t be able to help you out. Though you should read the whole label, as labels usually contain the info about whether or not it’s safe to be used on vegetables, as well as how long before the harvest it can be applied (or what measures should be taken to clean the produce before consuming it).


Hi, I’m working in Pest Control as a staff. I have cold problem for 4 months after I joined here. And lossed 5kg weight in 4 Months. Continuous cold and weight loss. Otherwise no side effects.

We’re using Tafaban, Nuvan, Dodak, Nuvn, Heraban, Chloro-20 and Ratol Paste.

Please tell me the solution for my problem. Thank you..!


    You should go see a doctor for a professional medical evaluation.


My husband worked in the pest control business for a few months. He sprayed homes for pests and did not wear a mask.
Now he is having problems and I firmly believe it is the effects of the past spray.
These are his symptoms: sleeps all the time, has tremors, having incontinence problems, memory problems (similar to dementia), balance problems, no strength.
Could these symptoms be a result of the pest control sprsy?


    If your husband is experiencing health issues, we suggest consulting a doctor.

Earle W. Hanna Sr.

I would not recommend being an exterminator. Although I made enough money to travel around the world It took me at least ten years to get rid of the
disease. I am enjoying Life now at eighty five years old. The only thing that the chemicals did for me was make me live longer. I am eighty five years old and in physical shape and got rid of the short term memory problems that I had.


I’ve had a number of professional treatments inside my new home, mostly for silverfish. After the most recent treatment, I experienced, what I can only describe as, a full body nerve issue, an electric tingling sensation. On top of that, some nausea, headache and dizziness. Last night I woke up 3-4 times feeling something was wrong.
He sprayed in my bathroom and around my bed. And a bit outside where there were dozens of silverfish in the front and back
Should I be concerned, see a doctor?


    Yes, with such symptoms you should definitely see a doctor.

Piaray lal pandita

While spraying pesticide some sprinkles went my eyes I immediately washed my eyes with water I feel better now but While twinkiling I feel माइनर irritation in my right eye what to do


    You should see a medical professional if the irritation doesn’t go away.

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