Acute Pesticide Exposure

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Program Overview

The Pesticide Exposure Surveillance in Texas (PEST) Program at the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) maintains a database of information on acute occupational pesticide poisonings occurring in the state of Texas. Pesticide poisonings include those by disinfectants, sanitizers, sterilizers, plant regulators, defoliants, desiccants, insecticides, rodenticides, or fungicides.

According to Texas law, physicians, laboratories, and healthcare providers are required to report work-related pesticide poisonings. The program also collects additional surveillance data from Texasthe  Poison Center Network, state agencies, and partners in the community.

Pesticide Exposure Surveillance in Texas Program

  • Conducts surveillance on acute (short-term) occupational pesticide poisoning
  • Conducts investigations of poisoning incidents when appropriate
  • Estimates the extent of occupational pesticide exposure in Texas
  • Identifies trends of pesticide poisoning by variables such as industry, location, age, race, and ethnicity
  • Disseminates findings about specific incidents or trends to stakeholders
  • Implements strategies to prevent exposure in the workplace
  • Educates target populations to prevent pesticide exposure

Occupations at Risk for Pesticide Exposure

  • Ground applicators
  • Nursery workers
  • Farmers and Ranchers
  • Harvesters or field workers
  • Warehouse workers who handle/transport pesticides
  • Pesticide formulators or manufacturers
  • Fumigators
  • Aerial applicators
  • Police and firefighters
  • Hotel workers
  • Structural pest control operators
  • Maintenance workers and janitors
  • Swimming pool cleaners
  • Chicken farmers
  • Hospital workers
  • Laundry workers
  • Vet/pet shop workers
  • Cafeteria/restaurant workers
  • Shipping industry workers
  • Retail workers who stock pesticides

Symptoms Associated with Pesticide Poisoning

The clinical symptoms of acute occupational pesticide poisoning vary depending on the type of pesticide, the route of exposure, and the duration of exposure. It is important to determine exposure history and/or other occupational information.

  • Upset stomach
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive salivation (drooling)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Dizziness
  • Skin irritation or rash
  • Difficulty breathing

Reporting Information

Who is responsible for reporting occupational conditions?

Please report all known and/or suspected cases of acute occupational pesticide poisoning to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 99.1 requires the following persons shall report cases or suspected cases of reportable conditions to DSHS:

  • A physician who diagnoses or treats the individual with the condition
  • A person who is in charge of a:
    • clinical or hospital laboratory
    • blood bank or mobile blood unit
    • facility in which a laboratory examination reveals evidence of the reportable disease
  • A health professional involved in the process of diagnosing or treating an individual with the condition

How do you report occupational pesticide poisoning?

Download the Human Pesticide Exposure Report Form or DSHS Weekly Notifiable Conditions Report Form to report occupational pesticide exposures. (EPI-1) (PDF file: 202 KB, 2000 revision)

*Forms must be viewed or printed with Adobe® Acrobat® Reader. Visit our file viewing information page for download information. For additional assistance please call (512) 776-7263.

Send reports by mail, fax, or phone to:

Attention: Environmental & Injury Epidemiology & Toxicology Unit
PEST Program MC 1964
Texas Department of State Health Services
PO Box 149347 - MC-1964
Austin, TX 78714-9347

Phone Number: 1 (800) 588-1248
Fax Number: (512) 776-7222

EPA ofrece una línea de asistencia gratuita para responder a preguntas en español sobre pesticidas (Filadelfia--17 de junio de 2010) En un esfuerzo por ayudar a la comunidad de habla hispana, la Agencia de Protección Ambiental tiene un nuevo número telefónico para brindar información y responder a preguntas relacionadas con pesticidas. El número gratuito es 1-888-919-4372. (más)

Frequently Asked Questions

I've been using pesticides, and now I feel sick. What do I do?

Contact the Texas Poison Center Network at the toll-free phone number, 24 hours a day at 1 (800) 222-1222 for chemical/health-related information.

  1. Call your family physician.
  2. Go to the Emergency Department if symptoms worsen.
  3. Call the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) at 1 (800) 835-5832 to report the incident.

What is a pesticide?

According to US federal law, through the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the term "pesticide" means:

  1. "Any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest
  2. Any substance or mixture of substances intended for the use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant" 1

Types of pesticides include:

  1. "Disinfectants: chemicals that are applied to inanimate objects to destroy microorganisms (fungi, viruses, bacteria). Disinfectants used in hospitals may be used to disinfect items such as medical instruments, floors, walls, bed linens, and toilet seats. Disinfectants used in the home may be used to disinfect general household items as well as swimming pools and drinking water."1
  2. "Defoliant: means any substance or mixture of substances intended for causing leaves or foliage to drop from a plant, with or without causing abscission." 2
  3. "Desiccant: means any substance or mixture of substances intended for artificially accelerating the drying of plant tissue."2
  4. "Plant regulator: means any substance or mixture of substances intended, through physiological action, for accelerating or retarding the rate of growth or rate of maturation, or for otherwise altering the behavior of plants or the produce thereof, but shall not include substances of the extent that they are intended as plant nutrients, trace elements, nutritional chemicals, plant inoculants, and soil amendments." 2
  5. "Sanitizers: reduce the number of microorganisms from inanimate surfaces within a specified amount of time to levels considered safe as determined by public health codes or regulations. Sanitizers may be used on both food and non-food contact products." 1
  6. "Sterilizers: chemicals or processes (such as steam, heat, or pressure) that completely eliminate microorganisms (such as fungi, viruses, bacteria, spores) from a surface, equipment, or food."1

1 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website

2 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)

Can disinfectants, sanitizers, and/or sterilizers be harmful?

Yes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that "while these pesticides provide benefits, they can also be harmful if used improperly. Exposure to these chemicals generally occurs either by accident or by a failure to follow the directions on the label." 1

Here are some examples of the types of exposures to disinfectants, sanitizers, and sterilizers that have been reported to the Pesticide Exposure Surveillance in Texas Program:

  1. Accidental ingestion of pine oil after the bottle fell and splashed on the face
  2. Inhalation of toxic fumes that formed when chlorine was mixed with ammonia in a small space
  3. Dermal/ocular exposure when a hospital employee sprayed a coworker in the eye with a disinfectant1

I work with pesticides. What steps can I follow to protect my family and myself?

Regardless of toxicity, no pesticide can harm a person (child or adult) until exposure occurs. Here are some ways to avoid exposure:

  1. Always wash hands with soap and water after working with pesticides or handling treated plants.
  2. Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs when working with pesticides.
  3. Stay away from fields that have been sprayed; this is especially important for children and pregnant women!
  4. Take off boots and hat (if possible change clothes at the workplace) before entering your house.
  5. Wash work clothes (use hot water and lots of soap) after wearing them one time. Do not wash potentially contaminated work clothes with your family's other clothes.
  6. Read and follow the instructions on the labels of household pesticides and pesticides used for your work.
  7. Always keep poisons away from children.

I use disinfectants to clean at work. How can I avoid exposure to disinfectants?

  1. Follow the instructions on the label.
  2. Wear gloves and other protective gear as necessary.
  3. Avoid contact with skin and eyes.
  4. Always ventilate the area well during and after mixing or applying.
  5. Never mix cleaning products, especially bleach.
  6. In an emergency, seek medical attention immediately and call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1 (800) 222-1222.

We recently moved into a new home, and I've noticed a strong pesticide odor that won't go away. I have been experiencing headaches, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Could pesticides be responsible for this?

The odor in your home may or may not be pesticide-related. If you are experiencing health-related problems you should:

  1. Evacuate the area to eliminate routes of exposure such as breathing or touching the chemicals. Children, elderly individuals, and pets should evacuate immediately. They are more susceptible to chemical exposures.
  2. Seek medical attention immediately by contacting the Texas Poison Center Network at 1(800) 222-1222 or see a physician.
  3. You may also contact the Structural Pest Control Service (SPCS) of Texas at 1(866) 918-4481. SPCS regulates non-agricultural pesticide applicators. Depending on the situation, SPCS may investigate to determine if there are any pesticide-related problems in your home.
  4. If possible, please contact your landlord or local health department for more information on chemical-related issues.

We have a pest problem in my home. Is there an effective alternative to removing these pests without using pesticides?

Yes. You can use the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) method.

According to the University of California at Davis, you can follow these steps to manage pests around your home and garden:

  1. "Identify the pest so that you can choose a correct and effective management method. If the pest is a problem that needs to be managed, find out about its life cycle and biology."
  2. "Find out if there are preventive or nonchemical methods you can use to minimize the problem. For best results, combine several methods from the following categories:"
    • "Prevention: Prevent pests from invading or building up their populations in the first place. This might include removing the pests' sources of food, water, and shelter, or blocking their access into buildings or plants."
    • "Cultural controls: Cultural practices are things you can do to discourage pest invasion such as good sanitation, removing debris and infested plant material, proper watering and fertilizing, growing competitive plants, or using pest resistant plants."
    • "Physical or mechanical controls: Control pests with physical methods or mechanical devices such as knocking pests off of plants with a spray of water, using barriers and traps, cultivating, soil solarization, or heat treatments."
    • "Biological control: Biological control is the use of beneficial organisms (called natural enemies) to manage pests. Encourage natural enemies by planting flowering and nectar-producing plants and avoiding the use of broad-spectrum pesticides."
  3. "If effective nonchemical methods are not available, consider using pesticides."

"Pesticides can be part of IPM; some pest problems are serious enough to call for pesticide treatment. Always follow the label to prevent human and pet exposure and protect the environment.

Combine pesticide treatments with other preventive methods to discourage pests from coming back." 3

3University of California at David whatisipmurban.html

What is the difference between pesticide exposure to a child and an adult?

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), "Children are not small adults. They differ from adults in their exposures and may differ in their susceptibility to hazardous chemicals. Children's unique physiology and behavior can influence the extent of their exposure." 4

"Because they are smaller they receive higher doses of toxicants per pound of body weight. Pound for pound of body weight, children drink more water, eat more food, and breathe more air than adults. Children crawl on the floor, put things in their mouths, sometimes eat inappropriate things, and spend more time outdoors. Children also are closer to the ground, and they do not have the judgment needed to avoid hazards." 4

4Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) website

I live along the US/Mexican border. I've noticed that shops and street vendors in both countries sell pesticide products with homemade labels, or sometimes no labels at all. I've heard from others that these products are very effective at pest control and are inexpensive. Are these products safe to use?

No. Unlabeled pesticides are not safe to use. While they may be easy and cheap to obtain, you do not know what you are buying. Federal law requires that pesticide products be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "before selling or distributing" 1 in the United States.

Two examples include non-registered pesticide products that have been reported:

  • Polvo de avión - "Airplane powder" is a white powder often sold in small plastic bags. The substance is methyl-parathion, categorized as a severely hazardous pesticide formulation restricted by the EPA and restricted to only certain outdoor commercial use.
  • Miraculous Chalk - Like its name, this product looks like chalk and is applied as such. Persons often apply the pesticide chalk as a border to kitchen cabinets or on the floor at the entrance of their homes.

For more information, you may contact:
Adriana Corona
Office of Border Health - El Paso, Texas
Health Service Region 9/10
Phone: 915-834-7690

  • If you experience any health-related issues seek medical attention immediately by contacting the Texas Poison Center Network at 1(800) 222-1222 or see a physician.

1 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website

I have a pest problem at my home; my neighbor offered me a pesticide product that is used at his work. The label says that the product should be applied by a commercial applicator. If I am careful, could I apply this product myself?

For your safety and the safety of others:

  • Never attempt to apply a pesticide that requires a commercial license.
  • Never attempt to apply a pesticide that has no label.
  • Using products against the label can be dangerous to your health and the health of others.
  • Always read the label to protect yourself and your family.
  • Call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1(800) 222-1222 if you have any questions about any pesticide products

I live near a farm that sprays its crops with an aerial (plane) application. Yesterday, the farmer was spraying the crops, and it was very windy. Is the farmer obligated to inform his neighbors that he is spraying, and what can I do to report the farmer if I have been exposed to the drift of the aerial application?

  • Call the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) at 1 (800) 835-5832 to report the incident and discuss options to request that your neighbor follow the rules and regulations for aerial pesticide treatment of his fields, including giving you ample notification of their intent to proceed.
  • Avoid collecting evidence such as videotaping or going near the application site.
  • Call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1 (800) 222-1222 if you have experienced pesticide exposure.

Educational Materials

Pesticide Postcards:

Reporting Postcard "pdf" (94 KB)

  • Target: healthcare providers
  • Purpose: to promote the reporting of pesticide poisoning

Workers Postcard "pdf" (145 KB)

  • Target: occupations that work with disinfectants
  • Purpose: to promote awareness of pesticide poisoning

Family Postcard "pdf" (253 KB)

  • Target: families that use pesticides/disinfectants
  • Purpose: to promote awareness of pesticide poisoning

Familia Postcard "pdf" (172 KB)

  • Público al cual hoy nos dirigimos: familias hispanohablantes que usan pesticidas/desinfectantes
  • Propósito: fomentar el conocimiento sobre envenenamientos por el uso de pesticidas y desinfectantes

Pesticide Posters:

Pesticides in Your Path "pdf" (1.73 MB) - DSHS Publication No. E09-12821

  • Target: all audiences
  • Purpose: use as teaching tool to describe the potential locations where an individual may get exposed

Pesticide Brochures:

Pesticide Exposure brochure "pdf" (547 KB)

  • Target: health care providers
  • Purpose: to promote the reporting of pesticide poisoning

Pesticide Booklets:

Acute Occupational Pesticide Exposure to Disinfectants, Sanitizers, and Sterilizers

  • Target: all audiences
  • Purpose: to promote the awareness of disinfectants, sanitizers, and sterilizers

Pesticide Fact sheets:

Maps of Pesticide Incidence by County 2005 - 2007:

Maps of Pesticide Exposure Cases by County 2000 - 2010:


Farmworker Exposure Underreporting - Texas pesticide exposure 2000-2010 at a glance; South Texas counties 2006-2010

Migrant Farmworkers Pesticide Exposure Case - Unusual to migrant farmworkers, a group of migrant farmworkers report their pesticide exposure to the program's hotline!

Publications and Reports

Acute Occupational Pesticide Poisoning in Texas 2006-2015

Acute Pesticide Illnesses Associated with Off-Target Pesticide Drift from Agricultural Applications - 11 states, 1998-2006

Total release fogger exposures reported to Texas poison centers, 2000–2009

Acute Illnesses Associated with Exposure to Fipronil - Surveillance From 11 States in the United States, 2001 - 2007.

Acute Antimicrobial Pesticide-related Illnesses among Workers in Healthcare Facilities - California, Louisiana, Michigan, and Texas, 2002-2007.

Illnesses and Injuries Related to Total Release Foggers --- Eight States, 2001-2006

An Epidemiology in Texas 2006 Annual Report from the Texas Department of State Health Services Infectious Disease Control Unit. October 29, 2007/Volume 64/Suppl.No.1

Acute Pesticide Poisoning in the U.S. Retail Industry, 1998-2004 

Acute Illness Associated with Pesticide Exposures at Schools "pdf" (149.8KB)

Texas SENSOR, Final Progress Report, 2002-2006

Acute Pesticide-Related Illness Among Emergency Responders, 1993-2002 "pdf" (151KB)

Unintentional Topical Lindane Ingestions - United States, 1998-2003

Acute Occupational Pesticide-Related Illnesses in the US, 1998-1999: Surveillance Findings from the SENSOR - Pesticides Program "pdf" (167KB)

Surveillance for Acute Insecticide - Related Illness Associated with Mosquito Control Efforts - Nine States, 1999-2002

Acute Pesticide-Related Illnesses Among Working Youths, 1988-1999 

Illness Associated with Occupational Use of Flea-Control Products - California, Texas, and Washington, 1989-1997

Regulatory Services

Texas Department of Agriculture - State agency with agricultural marketing and regulatory responsibilities.

Structural Pest Control Service - State agency responsible for the licensure and regulation of Texas pest management professionals.

Other State-Based Pesticide Poisoning Surveillance Programs

Arizona: Pesticide Poisoning Prevention Program

California Department of Public Health:

California: Department of Pesticide Regulation

Florida: Pesticide Exposure Surveillance Program

Iowa: Bureau of Environmental Health Services - Occupational Health & Safety Surveillance - Pesticide Poisoning Surveillance

Louisiana: Health-related Pesticide Incident Report Program

Michigan Department of Community Health: Division of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology,1607,7-132-2945_5105-127397--,00.html

New York: Pesticide Poisoning Registry

Oregon: Pesticide Poisoning Prevention Program

Washington: Pesticide Program

General Pesticide Resources

Pesticide Resource Management Guide

Pesticide Action Network Pesticide Database

Right to Know Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets

Texas A&M Entomology - Answers questions regarding insects.

Texas Poison Center Network

National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC)

EPA Pesticide Poisoning Handbook

National Strategies for Health Care Providers: Pesticides Initiative

Farmworker Contracts

Integrated Pest Management in Schools

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – A pest management strategy where one accurately identifies pests and applies scientific knowledge about the best ways to target pests. This strategy uses reliable monitoring methods to assess pest presence and to determine when corrective control measures are needed. The focus is on preventative measures to limit pest problems and thresholds. Under IPM - whenever economical and practical - multiple control tactics should be used to achieve the best control of pests. These tactics will possibly include but are not limited to, the judicious use of pesticides.

Pesticide Alternatives