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Physical Information

Name: Insecticides

Use: kill insects

Source: synthetic chemistry, plants

Recommended daily intake: none (not essential)

Absorption: intestine, inhalation, skin

Sensitive individuals: fetus, children, elderly

Toxicity/symptoms: nervous system, range of problems depending on the chemical

Regulatory facts: RfDs exist for many insecticides. Regulated by EPA

General facts: billions of pounds used every year in agricultural and residential use

Environmental: pesticides are used globally; some are very persistent in the environment

Recommendations: avoid, consider alternatives, Integrated Pest Management


Insecticides are Pesticides used against insects. Most modern insecticides act by poisoning the nervous system with a dose large enough (relative to the insects' size) to be lethal. The most prominent classes of insecticides are Organochlorines, Pyrethroids, Organophosphates, and Carbamates. Insecticides can be developed to target any stage of insect development and can neutralize on contact or have a delayed effect following exposure. 

Due to similarities between the nervous systems of insects, animals, and humans, insecticides often have harmful effects on non-pest organisms. For example, symptoms of acute human exposure to organophosphate pesticides (such as Diazinon, malathion, and chlorpyrifos) include muscle twitching, tremors, incoordination, dizziness, nausea, and respiratory problems.


Current Events

San Francisco citizens and officials voice concern over California Department of Food and Agriculture plan to use of pheromones to eliminate invasive moth species. See full San Francisco Bay Guardian article.


Kamel F and Hoppin JA. Association of pesticide exposure with neurologic dysfunction and disease. Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jun;112(9):950-8. Available online at EHPonline. (accessed: 30 June 2004).

MMWR (1999). Farm worker illness following exposure to carbofuran and other pesticides - Fresno County, California, 1998. February 19, 1999, 48(6), 113-116. (accessed: 5 July 2003).

Dean, S. R., & Meola, R. W. (2002). Effect of diet composition on weight gain, sperm transfer, and insemination in the cat flea (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae). J Med Entomol, 39(2), 370-375.

Dryden, M. W., & Gaafar, S. M. (1991). Blood consumption by the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae)

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