Myth: Pesticides are Safe – Fact: Pesticides are Lethal and They Kill

One of the biggest myths in advertising is that pesticides are safe. According to Dr. Russell Jaffe of Serammune Physicians Lab in Virginia, as many as 16 million people suffer from reactions to pesticides–approximately five million severe enough to potentially result in death; another 500,000 are affected with asthma, bronchitis, eczema or migraine headaches; and the remaining 11 million break out in hives or suffer from muscle and joint pain.

Despite the statistics (and thanks to the millions of advertising dollars spent to brainwash the public), it is estimated that around 91 percent of all American households apply some 300 million pounds of pesticides and insecticides in and around the home, spend about $1 billion annually on pesticides and use more of them per acre than farmers use in their fields. Pesticides are the second leading cause of household poisoning in the U.S. In fact, it is believed that about 2.5 million children and adults are affected each year by items used inside the home, such as fly spray, roach bait and insect repellents.

Pesticide Exposure

The harm inflicted first takes place when one breathes the pesticide directly during application, and then again later from residue. Pesticides are specially-formulated to resist natural decomposition. When used indoors (protected from sun and wind) they last even longer–sometimes a month or more.

Dangerous Hidden Ingredients in Pesticides

People assume that pesticides are safe because they’re legal. Perhaps one assumes the EPA or FDA must test pesticide products extensively to assure safety. Well, the truth is: they don’t test them. In fact, manufacturers aren’t even required to list all of the ingredients on the label. In a study performed by the New York Attorney General’s office, nearly 75 percent of the pesticide products tested contained a minimum of 95 percent “inert” ingredients –ingredients that don’t have to be listed on the label. Federal law classifies all pesticide ingredients that don’t harm pests as “inert.” Therefore, “inert” classification is not an indication that such chemicals are harmless to humans or animals – they simply don’t kill insects or weeds. Some common inert ingredients found in pesticides include:

Chloroethane, a suspected carcinogen (cancer-causing substance), known to irritate eyes, cause abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, liver and kidney damage, nervous system dysfunction and blood cell disorders;
Isophorone, a suspected carcinogen known to cause irritation of skin, nose, throat, respiratory system, lung congestion and degeneration, central nervous system disorders, and kidney and liver damage;
Phenol, a known mutagen that causes irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness, fainting, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and damage to the liver, kidney, heart and chromosomes;
Toluene, known to cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation, abdominal pain, headache, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, hallucinations, anemia, liver disorders and enlargement, central nervous system dysfunction, coma and death.

More than 200 “inert” ingredients found in pesticides are considered hazardous air and/or water pollutants, 127 are classified by OSHA as occupationally-hazardous, more than 80 are required to be reported under EPA’s Toxic Chemical Release Inventory, and at least 14 are considered extremely hazardous substances that must be reported to emergency planning and response committees.

Studies have found that many inert ingredients amplify the effects of active ingredients by helping them penetrate clothing and cell membranes, or by increasing their toxicity. Manufacturers claim their choosing not to disclose the full list of ingredients is an act designed to protect their trade secrets. However, the fact of the matter is that competing companies can easily identify a products ingredients through routine lab tests. Therefore, the only people who are really kept in the dark are the consumers who buy and use the products.

Cancer Risk Associated with Pesticides

According to the PAN pesticide database, at least half of the active ingredients found in some roach foggers are known to cause cancer in humans. Permethrin has been shown to cause lung tumors in animals. Yet it is a main ingredient of insect repellent intended to be sprayed onto your clothing to repel ticks, chiggers, mites and mosquitoes for up to six weeks. In addition, exposure to pesticides are known to deplete levels of vitamins B2 and B3 in the body, which can cause cancer in susceptible individuals. Overall, it is estimated that pesticides cost the nation $8 billion annually in public health care expenditures.

Solution to Pesticide Risks

Please review the article “Organic Pest Control and Natural Pesticide Alternatives” to learn about the safer alternatives to pesticides. In addition, buy organic foods when possible and support local farmers and markets who choose not to use pesticides and herbicides on their food crops.


Anti-Aging Manual: The Encyclopedia of Natural Health; Joseph B. Marion; 2005.
PAN: “Pesticide Database”
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Integrated Risk Information System
National Toxicology Program, Chemical Health and Safety Data
U. S. Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

-Jennifer Lanier


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