Pesticides, indoor

Pesticides, indoor
Human Health Risk
Ecological Risk
Socioeconomic Risk
Pesticides include any compounds employed to destroy, prevent, or control pests. By their
very nature, these chemicals present some risk of environmental harm. Approximately 600
substances are registered as pesticides, each having different chemical, physical, and
toxicological characteristics. Indoor exposure to pesticides results from their direct use as
disinfectants or pest control as well as indirectly as a result of drifting or tracking in from
outdoors. Rugs and floors are a major source of pesticide residues; household dust has
been found to contain higher pesticide levels than the surrounding outdoor soils in a number of studies. Chemicals used for termite control, some of which have been banned for
residential use, may continue to persist in indoor air years later. Pesticides that degrade
readily in soils may persist for longer periods in indoor environments.
What’s at risk?
What are the human health impacts in
New Jersey?
According to EPA data, many people receive
80% to 90% of their exposure to pesticides
indoors. Exposure occurs via inhalation of
residues in the air, skin contact, and ingestion of
residue carried by dust or particles. Pesticide
residues may be found in homes many years
after chemical use has been discontinued—some
of the most persistent pesticides such as DDT
are still detected. The exposure level to specific
populations in New Jersey cannot be quantified,
but according to national estimates, 75% of
American households used at least one pesticide
indoors during the year. While it is unknown
what percentage of these households are adversely affected by indoor pesticide levels, there
is concern about the chronic impacts of low
doses on the endocrine, reproductive, and
neurological systems, immune response, and on
learning and memory. There is also a potential
for acute effects resulting from misuse or
accidental poisoning. Several thousand calls
related to pesticides are placed annually to the
New Jersey Poison Information and Education
What are the socioeconomic impacts in
New Jersey?
The socioeconomic TWG estimated impacts
from pesticide exposures from all sources. Using
national estimates, at least $8 million in medical
costs may be expected as a result of increased
childhood cancers and accidental poisonings
related to pesticide exposures. Studies have
shown that most people worry about pesticide
residues in food. Potential loss of biodiversity
may also contribute to an aesthetic impact.
Overall, socioeconomic risks from pesticides are
considered high, but there are significant uncertainties.
What’s being done?
A number of the most persistent pesticides have
been banned from use, but continue to be
detected in indoor environments. Regulations
govern the professional pest control industry.
Product labeling and education efforts contribute to increasing consumer safety. There are
currently no regulations pertaining to the safe
storage of pesticides where they are sold to the
general public.
Final Report of the New Jersey State Comparative Risk Project
Virtually everyone is exposed to some degree
and infants and children are especially at risk
from ingesting pesticide residues on floors and
objects. Asthmatics or other sensitive individuals
may also be at increased risk. Residents of older
homes treated for termites and urban residents
with persistent pest control problems may have
elevated indoor levels. Suburban residents and
homes in agricultural areas where large quantities
of chemicals are applied outdoors may also have
correspondingly higher indoor levels.