The term pesticide applies to insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, disinfectants and various other substances that are used to kill, repel, or control any plant or animal life considered to be a pest. Pests are living organisms that occur where they are not wanted or that cause damage to crops or humans or other animals.
When used properly, pesticides may offer a variety of benefits. They may increase crop production, preserve produce, combat insect infestations, and control exotic species. However, pesticides also have the potential for causing harm. In the United States, about 1.1 billion pounds of pesticide active ingredient are used each year and over 20,000 pesticide products are on the market. In 2012, pesticides were the tenth leading cause of poisoning exposure reported to poison control centers in the United States.
People may be exposed to pesticides used in homes, schools, hospitals, and workplaces. Many familiar household products are pesticides, e.g., insect repellents, cleaning products, and weed killers. Because of the widespread use of agricultural chemicals in food production, people are exposed to low levels of pesticides through residues in foods and contaminated drinking water. Scientists do not yet have a clear understanding of the chronic health effects of pesticide exposures.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for approving pesticides and evaluating the risk of pesticides to humans.
The Tracking Network has data for the following types of pesticides: