Pollution Prevention & Remediation Division

Information About Pesticides

{short description of image}General
{short description of image}Types of Pesticides
{short description of image}Types of injury or damage caused by pests
{short description of image}General Use
{short description of image}Household Use
{short description of image}Most Common Pesticides in the United States

{short description of image}Pesticide Usage in Florida
{short description of image}The Pathways For Pesticides in the Environment
{short description of image}Properties of Pesticides
{short description of image}Properties of the Environment
{short description of image}Health Concerns of Pesticides
{short description of image}Peticide Handling and Disposal


Pesticide - Any substance used to kill, repel or otherwise control a pest. These include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides and disinfectants. Pesticides are designed to be toxic and can pose a risk to children, adults, pets and beneficial creatures and plants. Common pesticides include herbicides for weed control, indoor ant and roach sprays, outdoor foggers, insect repellents, flea collars and pet shampoos.

According to section(s) 62-256.200 (20) Florida Administrative Code- "Pesticide" means any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, weeds, or other forms of plant or animal life or viruses, except viruses or fungi on or in living man or other animals, which the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall declare to be a pest, and any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant or dessicant.

Types of Pesticides

  • Acaricides - kill mites and spiders
  • Algicides - kill algae
  • Antibiotics - kill bacteria and viruses
  • Avicides - kill birds
  • Dessicants - dry up animals and plants
  • Fungicides - kill fungi
  • Herbicides - kill plants
  • Insecticides - kill insects
  • Molluscicides - kill molluscs
  • Nematocides - kill nematodes
  • Piscicides - kill fish
  • Plant Regulators - alter the growth of plants
  • Repellents - drive pests away
  • Rodenticides - kill rodents
  • Sterilants - stop reproduction

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Types of injury or damage caused by pests


  • crop loss
  • home damage from termites
  • clothes damage from moths
  • property loss due to tree damage

Medical damage

  • bubonic plague bacillus passed by fleas on rats,
  • lyme disease passed from ticks on deer, wild mice;
  • encephalitis transmitted by mosquitos

Aesthetic damage

  • loss of ornamental plants
  • Pesticide Usage in The United States
  • Taken from - "Pesticide Industry Sales and Usage, 1992-1993 Market Estimates, June 1994", Office of Prevention Pesticides and Toxic Substances, 33 pp.

General Use

  • U.S. pesticide user purchases account for one-third of the world market (dollars).
  • 1.1 billion pounds of active ingredients of conventional pesticides are used annually in the U.S.
  • There are 21,000 pesticide products containing 860 active ingredients
  • 1993 annual U.S. pesticide user expenditures - $8.5 billion
  • 56% herbicides
  • 30% insecticides
  • 7% fungicides
  • 7% other

Household Use

  • Pesticides are used in more than 69 million households out of 94 million total households in the U.S.
  • In 1993, expenditures on insecticides for homes and gardens totaled $875 million, 32 million pounds or 13% of the total insecticide use by volume in the U.S.
  • Herbicide use in home and garden accounted for $219 million, 27 million pounds, or 4% of the total herbicide use in the U.S.
  • Fungicide use in the home and garden accounted for $16 million; 11 million pounds or 8% of the total fungicide use in the home and garden
  • Other pesticides accounted for $108 million, three million pounds or 4% of the total other pesticide use in the home and garden.

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Most Common Pesticides in the United States


  • Atrazine
  • Metholachlor


  • 2,4-D
  • chlorpyrifos
  • diazinon
  • glyphosate
  • malathion
  • dicamba
  • diuron naled
  • MCPP
  • carbaryl

Pesticide Usage in Florida

  • Florida is the second largest user in the United States for pesticides.
  • 12,000 pesticides are used in Florida containing more than 600 active ingredients.
  • Forty-five of these ingredients are "restricted use pesticides." These are classified based on their acute toxicity to humans.
  • The EPA report "Pesticide in Groundwater Database: A Compilation of Monitoring Studies: 1971-1991" contains the following conclusions:
  • 18,153 well samples were collected during the sampling period.
  • 2362 samples contained detectable pesticides.
  • 1708 samples had detectable pesticides above the drinking water standards
  • Florida groundwater significant detections included:
  • EDB (a nematocide)
  • alachlor (a herbicide)
  • bromacil (a herbicide)
  • aldicarb (a herbicide)
  • The ten most commonly detected compounds in Florida were:
  • aldicarb sulfone
  • aldicarb sulfoxide
  • atrazine
  • alachlor
  • simazine
  • carbofuran
  • aldicarb
  • ethylene dibromide
  • DBCP
  • oxamyl

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Scientists cannot determine exactly what will happen to a particular pesticide once it enters the environment. They gather information which is used to make informed decisions about pesticide use and possible risks resulting from that particular use. PLEASE REMEMBER Pesticides are made to be toxic. Be an informed consumer and use environmental common sense when using pesticides in your home and garden. These chemicals may effect your health, the health of your neighbors and the health of smaller animals and plants in your community.

The fate of pesticides released into the environment is unknown. Releases may be followed by a very complex series of events which can transport the pesticide through the air or water, into the ground or even into living organisms. The medium for movement (air, water, soil, organisms) and the degree of movement (local or long distance distribution) will be different for each pesticide.

Pesticides which are sprayed move through the air and eventually end up in other parts of the environment, such as soil or water. Pesticides applied directly to the soil may be washed off the soil into nearby bodies of surface water, may evaporate into the air, or may percolate through the soil to lower soil layers and groundwater. Pesticides may enter surface waters when applied for weed control, or indirectly as a result of leaching from boat paint, runoff from soil or other routes.

Properties of Pesticides

  • The properties of pesticides determine their fate and behavior in the environment. The important properties are persistence, volatility, and solubility in water.
  • When pesticides are released into the environment, they are either: 1) broken down, or degraded, by the action of sunlight, water or other chemicals, or microorganisms, such as bacteria; or 2) resist degradation and thus remain unchanged in the environment for long periods of time.
  • The persistence of a pesticide is its ability to remain unchanged. Persistence is measured by half-life. The half-life is the time it takes for half of the initial amount of a pesticide to breakdown. Thus, if a pesticide's half-life is 30 days, half will be left after 30 days, one-quarter after 60 days, one-eighth after 90 days and so on.
  • When the pesticide is broken down, this usually leads to the formation of less harmful products. However, in some instances the products can be more toxic than the original pesticide.
  • Pesticides that are easily broken down generally move the shortest distance and have the least adverse affects on people or other organisms. Persistent pesticides generally move the longest distances and have the greatest potential to accumulate in living organisms.
  • The volatility of a pesticide is its ability to evaporate. Pesticides that are more volatile have the greatest potential to go into the atmosphere. If they are persistent, they can move long distances.
  • The solubility of a pesticide is its ability to dissolve. If a pesticide is very soluble in water, it is more easily transported by rainwater as runoff, or through the soil as a potential groundwater contaminant. Water soluble pesticides are more likely to remain in the surface water where they may adversely affect fish and other organisms.

Properties of the Environment

The individual properties of soil, water and living organisms affect the fate and behavior of pesticides. Climate and topography also play a role. Soils vary in their ratios of sand, organic matter, metal content, acidity, porosity, permeability, etc. These soil characteristics influence the behavior of pesticides. Water characteristics also vary and influence pesticide behavior. Some of the characteristics are acidity, depth, temperature, clarity, flow rate, presence of biological organisms and general chemistry.

Living organisms accumulate certain pesticides. Through the process of bioaccumulation, pesticides accumulate in lower organisms and are passed to higher organisms in the food chain when eaten. The higher organism will accumulate the pesticides at higher levels than their food source. Pesticide levels in fish, for example, can be tens to hundreds of thousands of times greater than ambient water levels in which they live.

Humans are at the top of the food chain. They bioaccumulate the pesticides accumulated by the lower animals and plants that they eat. It is not only fish but also domestic farm animals and plant food which can accumulate pesticides. Care must be used in the use of pesticides in agricultural as well as home and garden scenarios.

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Pesticides are designed to kill living organisms and EPA prohibits claims that these chemicals are safe or nontoxic. Studies on animals have shown that of the 34 chemicals encompassing 95% of lawn pesticides, 10 are carcinogens, 12 caused birth defects, 20 are neurotoxic, seven alter the reproductive process, 13 cause liver and kidney damage, and 29 are sensitizers or irritants.

A study of indoor air quality by EPA in 1990 detected 26 pesticides. In animals, 19 of these pesticides are nerve poisons, 18 may cause cancer, 15 are mutagens, 15 could cause birth defects, and 19 can cause reproductive problems.

DEET, the active ingredient in many insect repellants, is responsible for more than 5,000 poisonings every year in the U.S. (National Capitol Poison Center, Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C.). DEET can cause central nervous system disturbances, dermatitis, and skin irritation.

At EPA's current rate of testing, it will take more than a decade before 32 of the 34 most commonly used lawn chemicals can be fully tested for their affects on human health.

Inactive or inert ingredients are another problem with pesticides. Inert ingredients are designed to preserve the active ingredients, make them easier to apply or improve their killing ability. Information on inert ingredients is not required to be put on a product's label because this information is considered proprietary. These ingredients typically comprise between 80 - 90% of a pesticide, and in some cases be more toxic than the active ingredients.

Children and individuals with impaired immune systems are more vulnerable than adults to pesticide poisoning. Children have higher metabolic rates, and absorb higher concentrations of toxins from the environment than adults. In addition, children have not fully developed their body's defense systems against toxins. Their livers and kidneys, the organs that detoxify and excrete foreign substances, and act as barriers to absorption of toxic substances, have not fully developed.

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Handling Pesticides

It is the intention of this book to dissuade you from excessive use of pesticides, but if you decide to use pesticides, they can be handled in a safe manner to avoid risking the health of you and your family, your environment and the wildlife around you. The following are some suggestions for safer use.

1. Choosing the pesticide

  • Do not use a pesticide unless you have a pest problem
  • Do not buy more pesticide than you can use in one season
  • Identify the pest before purchasing the pesticide
  • Choose the pesticide that is least toxic
  • Read the label to determine the proper application amount, requirements for protective equipment and the potential hazards associated with the pesticide.
  • Do not use a "restricted use" pesticide unless you are a formally trained, certified pesticide applica- tor. These products are too dangerous to be used without special training.

2.The label will tell you:

  • The pests that the product will control
  • How to mix and apply the product. Doubling the dose does not do twice the job. It is hazardous to you and the environment.
  • When to apply the product
  • How the pesticide will affect crops, animals, and people
  • How much and how often to apply

3. Other information to consider:

  • Mix the chemical outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Mix only the amount you need.
  • Keep children and pets away from areas where you mix or apply pesticides.
  • Never mix different pesticides.
  • Never eat, drink or smoke when working with pesticides.
  • Wear rubber gloves, a long sleeved shirt, long pants, foot protection, goggles, a hat and preferable a mask when mixing and applying pesticides. Remember that pesticides can be absorbed into your body through the skin, as well as orally and through inhalation.
  • Always shower and shampoo after working with pesticides. Wash your work clothes separately from the family laundry.
  • Always keep the pesticides in the original container.
  • Store pesticides in a ventilated, dry and cool place, preferably locked and away from children.
  • Use all the pesticide in the container, do not pour unused pesticides down the drain.
  • Triple rinse empty pesticide containers and use the residue for application. If the pesticide is a solid, shake the bag to remove and use all product before you dispose of the container.
  • Do not store anything in an empty pesticide container and do not reuse the container.
  • Any unused product that can no longer be used should be taken to the local household hazardous waste collection for disposal. For additional information, contact the Broward County Office of Integrated Waste Management Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Hotline at (954) 765-4900.
  • If a spill occurs, do not wash it away. Sprinkle with sawdust, or kitty litter, sweep into a plastic garbage bag, and dispose with the rest of the trash.
  • When treating indoor areas, remove pets (including birds and fish) from the area to be treated. Also, remove food, dishes, pots and pans before treating kitchen cabinets.
  • Allow adequate ventilation and go away from the areas for at least the length of time prescribed by the label.
  • When treating outdoor areas, close the windows. Never spray or dust outdoors on a windy day.
  • Evaluate the results of your pesticide use to determine whether future applications will be effective. Continue reading this manual to learn how to avoid pesticide use altogether.

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