Toxic Effects of Pesticides

Severe exposure to pesticides can cause 2 types of poisoning: 

Acute poisoning

In general, acute poisoning occurs immediately or shortly after a single episode of exposure or short-term exposure to a pesticide. Acute poisoning could, for example, occur in young children who have access to improperly stored pesticides. Similarly, adults could be poisoned if they handled pesticides without taking all the necessary precautions. The severity of acute poisoning can vary depending on :

  • The toxicity of the pesticide
  • The amount and concentration of the active ingredient in the product
  • The exposure route

Signs or symptoms of acute poisoning

The most common signs or symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning are as follows :

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Eye or skin irritation at the site of contact with the product

Chronic poisoning

A person may also have chronic toxic effects after being in contact with low doses of pesticides for days, months or years. The person is then a victim of chronic poisoning.

Signs or symptoms of chronic poisoning

The main signs or symptoms that indicate chronic poisoning are as follows :

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Other risks of long-term toxic effects

The World Health Organization and an affiliate, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, have classified some pesticides as “probably” or “possibly” carcinogenic. Health Canada is therefore re-evaluating these pesticides to determine if their current conditions of use in Canada pose a threat. The results of this re-evaluation might lead to restrictions on the use of these pesticides or cause them to be taken off the market. 

Studies are also being conducted on the potential long-term effects of the use of some pesticides. These risks are related to :

  • Reproduction
  • Fetal development, especially the nervous system
  • Hormone balance
  • Immune system

If the studies confirm these risks, Health Canada will also revise the registration This hyperlink will open in a new window. of the pesticides concerned.