The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definition of a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating (moderating) any pest.  A pesticide is a hybrid word that combines the English word pest and from the Latin suffix cide means “to kill.”  In other words it means a pest killer.

Type of Pesticides

Pesticides are often referred to according to the type of pest they control.   These include:

  • Herbicides are chemicals that are used to kill plants or inhibit normal growth of a specific plant
  • Insecticides are products are designed to kill insects
  • Fungicides are products used to kill or prevent the growth of fungi and their spores. They can be used to control fungi that damage plants, including rusts, mildews and blights
  • Rodenticides are toxic chemical used to kill rodents and sometimes other pest mammals, including moles, rabbits, and hare.
  • Germicides are products designed to kill germs. Many household cleaning products are considered pesticides.


Application Methods

Pesticide applicators utilize many methods in the application of pesticides. Some of the methods may result in problems such as over application, not reaching the pest habitat while using a minimum amount of pesticide, and depositing unsafe residues. Proper techniques of application not only aid in effectiveness but also ensure workers’ safety, public protection, and protection of the environment.

  • Aerial Spraying (airplanes, helicopter)
  • Backpack Spraying
  • Tractor Spraying
  • Irrigation
  • Fumigation
  • Pellets


Health Effects

Pesticides can be harmful to our health.  They can enter our bodies through ingestion, inhalation, eyes and skin.  A person that does not take the proper precautions and comes into contact with pesticides may face risks short and/or long term health effects, especially farmworkers.

Short-term health effects are symptoms that you may experience immediately or within a few hours of exposure. These include:  skin irritation (rash); irritation of ear, nose, throat or eyes; headache; drooling; runny nose; trouble breathing; small pupils of the eyes; dizziness, nausea, vomiting;  excessive sweating; diarrhea; feeling tired; loss of muscle coordination, tremors, cramps; confusion; seizure, coma, even death.

Long-term health effects are symptoms that you may experience weeks, months or years after being exposed to pesticides. These include: different types of cancer (kidney, liver, nervous system); Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease; autism; reproductive problems; miscarriage; birth defects; other health effects such as diabetes, even death.

Also, while working in the field, farmworkers can be exposed to pesticides and not feel any immediate health effects. However with time a farmworker might acquire sensitivity to pesticides.  In other words, an agricultural worker my not have any symptoms one day, and the next day they might suffer from any of the previously mentioned health effects.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pesticide Exposure during Pregnancy

Being in contact with pesticides during pregnancy may put their health and the health of their un-born child at risk. It may lead to miscarriages, pre-term births, low birth weight, birth defects and learning problems in children.

All pesticides have some level of toxicity and pose some risk during pregnancy. The risk depends on the toxicity of the pesticide ingredients and how much of the pesticide a woman and the baby are exposed to while pregnant.  During the first trimester (3 months) of pregnancy, the nervous system is rapidly developing in your baby, so you definitely want to avoid any type of contact with pesticides during this time.

AFOP Health & Safety Programs network of trainers provide pesticide education to the farmworker community.  We provide agricultural workers with the right tools to help protect themselves and their families from the adverse effects of pesticide exposure.  During this year (Jan-November 2016) our trainers have provided the Worker Protection Standard training to 17,455 farmworkers.  We also provided training on how to prevent pesticide exposure at home through our Limiting [Pesticide] Exposure Around Families (LEAF) curriculum to 12,329 to farmworkers.  In addition we provided pesticide exposure prevention among pregnant women to 6,669 farmworkers.  And but not least important, we provided pesticide safety education to children between ages 5-10 through our story-telling curriculum Jose Learns About Pesticides.

Our promise is to continue providing health and safety education to as many farmworkers as possible. They deserve to live a safe and healthy life like each one of us.