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Pesticide Exposures

Herbicides

Herbicides are designed to kill plants, usually for controlling weeds. We have provided specific information on certain sub-categories of herbicides because they are used more often, (glyphosates) or because they are more toxic and present a greater risk from exposure (paraquat).

  • Chlorophenoxy Herbicides: These herbicides are often mixed into commercial fertilizers to control growth of broadleaf weeds in a variety of crops. Other uses include brush control, control of aquatic weeds, and prevention of early fruit drop from apple trees.
  • Triazines: This group of pesticides includes atrazine, simazine, and propazine as well as their three chlorinated degradates, or breakdown products. They are often used in crop production and home lawn care.
  • Glyphosate: This type of herbicide is frequently used by home gardeners and by people and institutions trying to kill broadleaf weeds and grasses and to control invasive plants, especially those known to compete with commercial crops. It is also used to control plant growth on right-of-ways. Glyphosate is one of the most widely used pesticides in the U.S. today.
  • Paraquat/Diquat: Paraquat is a restricted-use pesticide in most forms for most uses in the United States. It is widely used in agriculture and has high potential for misuse and unintentional and intentional poisonings. Diquat is often used to control weeds in ponds and is less toxic than paraquat but can cause neurologic damage, compared to paraquat, which concentrates in lung tissue and causes pulmonary damage.

Exposure and Risk

Herbicides are commonly used in residential lawns. People may be exposed by getting an herbicide on their skin by touching a plant that was recently treated or by tracking it into their homes on the bottom of their shoes after walking across a treated lawn.

Prevention

Carefully choose an appropriate herbicide and always follow the instructions on the product label. Do not apply more of the herbicide than is directed on the label. Keep children and pets away from the treated areas. The most effective way to reduce risk for herbicide health effects is to use integrated pest management and avoid using pesticides. Remove weeds by hand instead of using herbicide and develop an increased tolerance to weeds on your lawn.

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