Pesticides are chemicals that are used to control pests. A pest is any unwanted organism such as termites, cockroaches, fleas, rodents, or ants. Mold and bacteria are also an unwanted microorganism. Pesticides may have a name specific to their use such insecticides (kills insects), biocides (kills biologicals), herbicides (kills plants and weeds), and rodenticides (kills rodents). Biocides include fungicides, and bacteriocides. Most pesticides are inherently toxic, and should be used and stored with caution. The easy access and casual use of pesticides makes them a health hazard. Many pesticides are used in living spaces. Exposure can occur because of improper use and handling or can occur unknowingly after spraying in or around buildings or homes.


Pesticides are packaged in a variety of forms including baits, slow releasing strips, flea collars, mothballs, sprays, powder, and aerosol. In some pesticide formulation, the inert ingredient may also be harmful. Alcohol, glycols, ethers, chlorinated solvents are used as carriers. These ingredients are themselves toxic and make the pesticide more likely to become absorbed through the skin. Many pesticides are carcinogenic to humans and pets and can cause irritation to the skin, eyes and lungs. Long-term exposure can lead to neurological, skin, liver, kidney and respiratory failure. Muscle weakness and numbness or tingling of extremities is not uncommon. Some of the main ingredients that are found in homes due to use of pesticides include chemicals such as diazinon, carbaryl, propuxur, and chlordane. The EPA regulates the use of pesticides under FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act). All pesticides should be registered with the EPA. EPA requires pesticides to be labeled according to their level of toxicity, which reflects their acute effects on eyes and skin shortly after exposure. 

Cleaning products that are sanitizers, and disinfectants (type of biocides) that are bought from a grocery store, are toxic chemicals capable of destroying or inactivating microorganisms such as bacteria, fungus or viruses. They are sometimes used to control extensive microbial contamination (for example sewage backflow). Biocides are used in many household cleaning products. Antimicrobial agents (bactericides and fungicide) suppress or retard the growth of bacteria and mold. The main ingredient in biocides may include on of the following: alcohols (ethyl or isopropyl), aldehydes (formaldehyde, gluteraldeyde), halogens (chlorine or iodine), hydrogen peroxide, phenolic compounds, and quaternary ammonium compounds (cationic detergents). Chlorine dioxide preparations and hypochlorites (bleach) are popular biocides used in the industry as disinfectants and sanitizers. A antimocrobial agent can be formulated such that they are bound on material surfaces or fabrics. Treatment with antimicrobial agent prevents the growth of mold and bacteria. Like biocides, antimicrobial cleaning products may harm humans, and exposure should be minimized by proper use.  

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