The Dangers of Toxic Pesticides in Your Home and Garden

On January 3, 2017, The Associated Press reported that one day earlier four children were killed, likely as the result of the release of the poisonous gas phosphine.  A pesticide had been sprayed around a home to prevent pests.  When someone tried to wash it away, the mixture of the pesticide and water caused the release of the toxic gas.

Phosphine gas can cause severe respiratory issues, including respiratory failure.  It can also cause the lungs to fill with fluid, a condition known as pulmonary edema.  One child died at the home, and three others died at the hospital.  Six other people, also in the home, were sickened and taken to the hospital for treatment.

Most pesticides are toxic.  Therefore they pose a potentially great risk to humans, animals, plants, and the environment as whole.  According to Penn State Extension at Penn State University, there are certain families of toxins in pesticides that present the greatest danger due to exposure, however brief.  Keep these in mind before you apply any products containing these toxins around your home or garden.


The acute toxicity of fungicides to humans is generally considered to be low, but fungicides can be irritating to the skin and eyes. Inhalation of spray mist or dust from these pesticides may cause throat irritation, sneezing, and coughing. Chronic exposures to lower concentrations of fungicides can cause adverse health effects. Most cases of human fungicide poisonings have been from consumption of seed grain. To prevent these types of poisonings, fungicide treatment now includes a brightly colored dye to clearly indicate that the seed has been treated.


In general, herbicides have a low acute toxicity to humans because the physiology of plants is so different than that of humans. However, there are exceptions; many can be dermal irritants since they are often strong acids, amines, esters, and phenols. Inhalation of spray mist may cause coughing and a burning sensation in the nasal passages and chest. Prolonged inhalation sometimes causes dizziness. Ingestion will usually cause vomiting, a burning sensation in the stomach, diarrhea, and muscle twitching. 


Insecticides cause the greatest number of pesticide poisonings in the United States. The most serious pesticide poisonings usually result from acute exposure to organophosphate and carbamate insecticides. Organophosphate insecticides include chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dimethoate, disulfoton, malathion, methyl parathion, and ethyl parathion. The carbamate compounds include carbaryl, carbofuran, methomyl, and oxamyl. Organophosphates and carbamates inhibit the enzyme cholinesterase, causing a disruption of the nervous system. All life forms with cholinesterase in their nervous system, such as insects, fish, birds, humans, and other mammals, can be poisoned by these chemicals.

The toxins in most pesticides present major health hazards.  Short-term impacts from toxic pesticide exposure include headaches, nausea, fatigue, skin and eye irritation and damage, dizziness, and systemic poisoning, which can sometimes be fatal.

Long-term exposure effects include harm to our reproductive systems, disruption of the endocrine system and cancer.  Some major forms of cancer have been linked to pesticides, including non-Hodgkins lymphoma, brain, breast, ovarian, bone, prostate, testicular and liver cancers.  Children as especially at risk due to their developing brains and immune systems.

Pay close attention to the pesticides that may already be in your home and garden.  While you may not be able to protect yourself and your family from all toxic pesticide exposure in the world, you can take control of what is in your home.  There are organic options.  There are alternative solutions that help eliminate your pest problems without creating health problems.


The Associated Press.  (2017, January 3).  “4 children die in Texas gas poisoning; others injured.”  Retrieved from

Lorenz, Eric S.  (2017, January 3).  “Potential Health Effects of Pesticides.”  Retrieved from