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Pesticide Poisoning

Summary: Pesticides should be stored safely out of the reach of children and used exactly according to label specifications. Pesticide poisoning usually requires immediate medical attention.

Thousands of people experience accidental pesticide poisoning every year across the US. Hundreds of thousands of pesticide poisoning cases are reported yearly around the world.

The severity of pesticide poisoning depends on several factors including the type of pesticide, how it enters the body, and even the size and age of the person who has been poisoned.

Children are more susceptible to poisoning. Pesticides stored in the home should be in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children. Children often do not read or understand pesticide labels and are more likely to put something dangerous into their mouth. Children are also lower to the ground and play on the floor more frequently than adults, so pesticides that have been applied to the floor might come into contact with their skin. The affects of poisoning are likely to be more severe in children because they have a less developed immune system. Each year over half of the accidental deaths caused by poisoning in the US happen to children under the age of ten.

Consider moving all the chemicals under your sink or on garage shelves to childproof areas where children are unable to reach. Even if you have childproofed everything and think that you are safe, you should have a talk with your children to make sure they understand the dangers of handling pesticides or poisonous chemicals. Make sure that if you leave your child with a friend or relative that they, too, have moved their pesticides out of the reach of children.

In an emergency you should call the Poison Control Center Hotline at: 1-800-222-1222.

Pesticides have to undergo years of product testing before the government allows a product to be sold on the market. Millions of dollars are spent determining how to use pesticides in the safest possible way, and pesticides are labeled very carefully. Always read a product's label before using it, and be aware of the symptoms of poisoning and what you should do if poisoning occurs. There is more risk of poisoning the more toxic a pesticide is and the more exposure that you have to it.

Pesticides are labeled with signal words that indicate their level of toxicity. The amount of pesticides for a lethal dose is based on a person weighing 150 pounds. The signal words are:

DANGER = Highly toxic. Oral lethal dose is a few drops to one teaspoon. This might also have the skull and crossbones symbol on the label.

WARNING = Moderately toxic. Oral lethal dose is one teaspoon to one tablespoon.

CAUTION = Low Toxicity. Oral lethal dose is one ounce to over one pint.

Pesticides will have a very specific lethal dose on the label that usually has the symbol LD50  which is followed by a weight amount. The LD50 stands for lethal dose that was needed to kill half of the animals it was tested on. If you have a problem with animal testing then you should probably avoid any product that has the LD50 symbol on the label because to obtain that LD50 number, the product usually has to be tested on animals.

Signs of a mild poisoning might include: Headache, fatigue, dizziness, stomach cramps, diarrhea, blurred vision caused by excessive tearing, contracted pupils of the eyes, sweating, salivating, slowed heartbeat, and slight twitching muscles.

Signs of a moderate poisoning might include: Inability to walk, chest tightness, pinpoint pupils, and muscle twitching.

Signs of a severe poisoning might include: Loss of consciousness, incoherence, and seizures.

Pesticides can be swallowed, absorbed through the skin or the eyes or inhaled. If a poison is swallowed then stomach pains might be the first sign of poisoning. If a pesticide is inhaled respiratory problems might show up first. Pesticides can be absorbed through any exposed skin, but are absorbed more readily if they are exposed to cuts, the eyes, armpits, or the groin. Pesticides are also more readily absorbed through moist skin or when the person is sweating.

If you get pesticides in your eye wash out the eye thoroughly for at least fifteen minutes. If you get pesticides on your skin wash off the skin immediately with soap and water. Do not eat, drink, or smoke until the skin has been decontaminated. Sometimes, if a large amount of pesticide is exposed to the skin, or if the pesticide is highly toxic, then medical attention is still needed after washing the skin. Pesticide poisons can sometimes be slow acting, so err on the side of caution.

I normally make some kind of joke at the end of my articles, but pesticides are no laughing matter. Respect the dangers of using pesticides. Better yet, look for organic, less toxic or natural methods or call a pest control professional to solve your pest control concerns.

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