Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning

Pesticide Environmental Stewardship April 23, 2012|Print
Learning Modules for Pesticide Applicators:

 

Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning

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You should be aware of the early signs and symptoms of poisoning. It is important to remove the person from the source of exposure quickly. Remove contaminated clothing and wash off any chemical which has soaked through. You may save a life.

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Key points on this page

 

  • Be able to determine whether or not a person has been poisoned by a pesticide.
  • Learn to recognize kinds of poisoning and their symptoms.
  • Become familiar with chemical families and their toxicity.

Pesticide Poisoning or Not?


The symptoms of pesticide poisoning are similar to those of other types of poisoning and of other diseases. Heat exhaustion, food poisoning, asthma, and other illnesses are sometimes confused with pesticide poisoning. Just because a person becomes ill after using or being around pesticides is not proof that he is poisoned.

The symptoms of poisoning described here may occur in a person who has been suddenly exposed to large quantities of a toxic material. They may also occur in a person who has been continuously exposed to smaller quantities of toxic material over longer periods of time. If the symptoms appear, call your doctor and tell him what pesticide was involved.

Kinds of Poisoning


Acute poisoning is the severe poisoning which occurs after exposure to a single dose of pesticide. The appearance of symptoms may be sudden and dramatic or they may be delayed.

Chronic poisoning is the poisoning which occurs as a result of repeated, small, non-lethal doses over a long period of time. Many symptoms may appear, such as nervousness, slowed reflexes, irritability, or a general decline in health. Some test animals are unable to reproduce normally after repeated exposure to pesticides.

Medical Doctors Should Be Warned Ahead of Time


Many medical doctors may not be well informed as to the symptoms and treatment of pesticide poisoning. This is due to the few cases which they treat. Pesticide poisoning symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses and poisonings. You, the pesticide applicator, should tell your doctor which chemicals you use. Then he will know the symptoms and treatment, and can have the antidotes on hand.

General Symptoms

 

Unfortunately, all pesticide poisoning symptoms are not the same. Each chemical family (i.e., organophosphates, carbamates, chlorinated hydrocarbons) can attack the human body in a different way. However, you should be aware of the general symptoms of pesticide poisoning.


Mild Poisoning or Early Symptoms of Acute Poisoning headache, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, restlessness, nervousness, perspiration, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, loss of weight, thirst, moodiness, soreness in joints, skin irritation, eye irritation, irritation of the nose and throat.

Moderate Poisoning or Early Symptoms of Acute Poisoning nausea, diarrhea, excessive saliva, stomach cramps, excessive perspiration, trembling, no muscle coordination, muscle twitches, extreme weakness, mental confusion, blurred vision, difficulty in breathing, cough, rapid pulse, flushed or yellow skin, weeping.

Severe or Acute Poisoning fever, intense thirst, increased rate of breathing, vomiting, uncontrollable muscle twitches, pinpoint pupils, convulsions, inability to breathe, unconsciousness.

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Chemical Families


Pesticides which are chemically similar to one another are often grouped together into "families." Each pesticide in a family attacks a pest in a similar way. Treatment and antidotes for poisoning are also the same within each family. It is important that the doctor know which chemical family is involved. The following chart identifies the symptoms of pesticide poisoning in the major chemical families.

If you are in doubt whether or not poisoning has occurred, let your doctor decide!

Effects of Pesticide Chemicals on the Human Body

 

Chemical Family: Organophosphates - diazinon(C), Spectracide(T)


Type of Pesticide: Insecticides, acaricides

Action on Human System: Inhibits acetylcholinesterase (an enzyme) in the tissues

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Headache, dizziness, weakness, shaking, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, sweating
  • External Exposure: Minimal rashes but readily absorbed through the skin
  • Chronic Exposure: Loss of appetite, weakness, weight loss, and general feeling of sickness

 

Chemical Family: Carbamates - carbaryl(C), Sevin(T)


Type of Pesticide: Insecticides, acaricides

Action on Human System: Reversible changes in acetylcholinesterase enzyme of tissues

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Headache, dizziness, weakness, shaking, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, sweating
  • External Exposure: Minimal rashes but readily absorbed through the skin
  • Chronic Exposure: Loss of appetite weakness, weight loss, and general feeling of sickness

 

Chemical Family: Organochlorines (Chlorinated Hydrocarbons) - methoxychlor(C), Marlate(T)


Type of Pesticide: Insecticides, acaricides (HCB is a fungicide)

Action on Human System: Disrupt function of nervous system, mainly the brain

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Headache, dizziness, weakness, shaking, nausea, excitability, disorientation
  • External Exposure: Minimal rashes but readily absorbed through the skin
  • Chronic Exposure: Some buildup in the fat tissues. May cause nervousness, weakness, and shaking

 

Chemical Family: Pentachlorophenol - penta(C), Pentacon(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides, defoliants, molluscicides, germicides, fungicides, and wood preservatives

Action on Human System: Toxic to liver, kidneys, and nervous system

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Headache, weakness, nausea, excessive sweating
  • External Exposure: Highly irritating to skin, eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure: Weight loss, weakness, anemia

 

Chemical Family: Chlorophenoxy Pesticides - 2,4-D(C), Weed-B-Gon(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant to lung, stomach and intestinal linings. Injure liver, kidney, and nervous system

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Prompt vomiting, burning sensation in stomach, diarrhea, muscle twitching
  • External Exposure: Moderately irritating to eyes, skin, and lungs
  • Chronic Exposure: Do not remain in body; passed out within hours or days

 

Chemical Family: Paraquat and Diquat


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Injure skin, nails, cornea, liver, kidney, linings of stomach and intestine, and respiratory system

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Burning pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • External Exposure: Irritates and injures skin and nails
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Thiocarbamates and Dithiocarbamates - Zineb(T)


Type of Pesticide: Fungicides

Action on Human System: Low human toxicity

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weak-ness, and nasal stuffiness
  • External Exposure: Irritating to skin, eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids - Prentox(T), Ectiban(T)


Type of Pesticide:

Action on Human System: Very low human toxicity

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Slight toxic reaction
  • External Exposure:
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Arsenical Pesticides


Type of Pesticide: Rodenticides, insecticides, acaricides, marine antifouling compounds, desiccants, herbicides, fungicides

Action on Human System: Toxic to liver, kidney, brain, bone marrow, and nervous system

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Headache, burning stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness. Garlic odor on breath and feces
  • External Exposure: Swelling of mouth and throat, irritating to nose, throat, and eyes
  • Chronic Exposure: Accumulates in body. Chronic headaches, dizziness, stomachaches, salivation, low fever, garlic breath

 

Chemical Family: Coumarins, Indandiones, and other Anti-coagulants - warfarin(C)


Type of Pesticide:

Action on Human System: Prevents blood from clotting

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Usually no reaction if low accidental dose ingested
  • External Exposure: Minnimal
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Sodium Fluoroacetate - Compound 1080(T)


Type of Pesticide: Rodenticides

Action on Human System: Extremely toxic. Affects heart tissue and brain

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Stomach pain, vomiting, hallucination, nervousness
  • External Exposure: Minimal
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Zinc Phosphide - Phosdrin(T)


Type of Pesticide: Rodenticides

Action on Human System: Highly toxic; severe intestinal irritation; severe injury to liver, kidneys, nervous system and heart

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Intense nausea stomach pain, excitement, chills, cough
  • External Exposure: Minimal
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Yellow phosphorus


Type of Pesticide: Rodenticides

Action on Human System: Highly toxic; blood system injury; injury to liver, nervous system, heart, and kidneys

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Breath has garlic odor; feces may glow and smoke from phosphorus fumes; vomiting and diarrhea; burning pain in throat, stomach, and intestines
  • External Exposure: Dermal exposure usually low; irritates nose and throat
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Strychnine and Crimidine


Type of Pesticide: Rodenticides

Action on Human System: Acts directly on cells in the brain and spinal cord to cause convulsions

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Blue skin color; violent convulsions
  • External Exposure: Minimal
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Red Squill - Dethdiet(T)


Type of Pesticide: Rodenticides

Action on Human System: Low toxicity

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Prompt vomiting and nausea
  • External Exposure: Minimal
  • Chronic Exposure: Excreted rapidly; not retained in body

 

Chemical Family: ANTU and Norbormide


Type of Pesticide: Rodenticides

Action on Human System: Selectively toxic to rats; toxic to humans only in huge suicidal doses

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Blue skin, labored breathing
  • External Exposure: Minimal
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Sulfur Dioxide, Formaldehyde, Chloropicrin, and Acrolein


Type of Pesticide: Fumigants

Action on Human System: Strong irritant of lungs and throat

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Headache, dizziness, nausea, wheezing, cough
  • External Exposure: Severe irritation of eyes, nose, and throat. Blisters on skin
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Methyl Bromide, Ethylene Oxide and Propylene Oxide


Type of Pesticide: Fumigants

Action on Human System: Serious injury to lungs; injures nervous system

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Coughing of frothy fluid; severe shortness of breath, drowsiness, shaking, weakness
  • External Exposure: Irritates eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure: Lack of coordination

 

Chemical Family: Halocarbons - ethylene dibromide(C)


Type of Pesticide: Fumigants

Action on Human System: Injures heart muscles; also injures lungs, brain, liver and kidneys

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Shock, drowsiness, shaking weakness
  • External Exposure: Irritates eyes, nose, throat. Blisters and redness on the skin
  • Chronic Exposure: Liver damage, weight loss, and jaundice

 

Chemical Family: Carbon disulfide


Type of Pesticide: Fumigants

Action on Human System: Injury to nervous system

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Headache, dizziness, nausea, and disorientation
  • External Exposure: Irritates eyes, nose, and throat. Blisters and redness on skin
  • Chronic Exposure: Pain, tingling and weakness of arms and legs; loss of mental functions

 

Chemical Family: Phosphine


Type of Pesticide: Fumigants

Action on Human System: Injures lungs, liver, kidneys, and nervous system

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Weakness, shaking, vomiting, cough, difficulty in breathing, intense thirst
  • External Exposure: Irritates eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure: Pain in eyes and nose; nosebleeds; abdominal pain

 

Chemical Family: Metal Phosphides - aluminum phosphide(C), Phostoxin(T)


Type of Pesticide: Fumigants

Action on Human System: Injures lungs, liver, kidneys, heart and nervous system

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Nausea and vomiting followed by weakness, shaking, and dizziness
  • External Exposure: Irritants
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Sulfuryl Flouride - Vikane(T)


Type of Pesticide: Fumigants

Action on Human System: Injures lungs and kidneys

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Muscle twitching, convulsions
  • External Exposure: Irritant
  • Chronic Exposure: Injury to kidneys and lungs

 

Chemical Family: Hydrogen Cyanide, Acrylonitrile, and Sodium Cyanide


Type of Pesticide: Fumigants, rodenticides

Action on Human System: Injury to brain and heart tissues

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Headache, nausea, constriction of throat, dizziness, nervousness. Sudden unconsciousness
  • External Exposure: Irritant
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: 4-Amino pyridine - Avitrol(T)


Type of Pesticide: Avicides

Action on Human System: Disrupts nervous system functions

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Thirst, nausea, dizziness, weakness, excessive sweating
  • External Exposure:
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Chlordimeform - acaron(C)


Type of Pesticide: Insecticides, miticides

Action on Human System: Bladder injury

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Abdominal and back pain; painful urination; blood in urine
  • External Exposure: Skin rash; sweet taste in mouth
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Copper salts and Organic Complexes - copper sulfate(C)


Type of Pesticide: Fungicides

Action on Human System: Injures intestinal lining, brain, liver, kidneys, and blood

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Prompt vomiting; burning pain in chest; diarrhea, headache, sweating
  • External Exposure: Irritates skin and eyes; damages mucous membranes
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Cycloheximide - Acti-dione(T)


Type of Pesticide: Fungicides

Action on Human System: Irritates stomach and intestine; injury to kidneys, brain lining, and nervous system

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Excitement, tremors, salivation, diarrhea
  • External Exposure: Minimal
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Endothall


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides, algicides

Action on Human System: Damages heart, blood vessels, nervous system, and intestional lining.

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Convulsions, shock, lack of coordination
  • External Exposure: Irritating to eyes, skin, and mucous membranes
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Nicotine Sulfate - Black Leaf 40(T)


Type of Pesticide: Insecticides

Action on Human System: Injures nervous system

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Nausea, headache, diarrhea, dizziness, shaking, abdominal pain, lack of coordination, sweating, salivation.
  • External Exposure: Minimal but readily absorbed through the skin
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Phenylmercuric Salts - phenylmercury acetate(C), Agrosan(T)


Type of Pesticide: Fungicides

Action on Human System: Injures nervous system and kidneys

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Delirium, muscle weakness,lack of coordination
  • External Exposure: Minimal
  • Chronic Exposure: Weakness and lack of coordination in arms and legs; difficulty in talking and swallowing

 

Chemical Family: Sodium Chlorate - Atratol(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides, defoliants

Action on Human System: Injury to intestinal lining, nervous system, and kidneys

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Swelling of mouth and throat; pain in esophagus, stomach, and intestines; restlessness
  • External Exposure: Irritant
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Acetamides - butachlor(C), Machete(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritants

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Moderately irritating to skin and eyes
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Acetanilides - alachlor(C), Lasso(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Mild irritants; propachlor is a skin irritant and sensitizer
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Alumino Flouride Salt - cryolite(C), Kryocide(T)


Type of Pesticide: Insecticide

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Slight irritant of eyes, nose, and skin
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Bensoic and Benzilic Derivatives - chloramben(C), Amiben(T)


Type of Pesticide: Insecticides, herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Irritating to skin and respiratory tract
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Benzonitriles - bromoxynil(C), Buctril(T)


Type of Pesticide: Fungicides, Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Moderately irritating to lungs
  • External Exposure: Moderately irritating to skin
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Dithiocarbamates - mancozeb(C), Dithane M-45(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides, fungicides

Action on Human System: Do not inhibit cholinesterase; mild irritants.

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Mild irritant to skin, eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Carbanilate - propham(C), Chem-Hoe(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Irritant and skin sensitizer
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Dicarboximides - captan(C)


Type of Pesticide: Fungicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Skin irritant
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Dinitroaniline Compounds - trifluralin(C), Treflan(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Slightly to moderately irritating to skin, eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Oxadiazola - oxadiazon(C), Ronstar(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Irritating to skin and eyes
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Picolinic Acid - triclopyr(C), Garlon(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Irritates lungs
  • External Exposure: Irritating to skin, eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Pyridazinone - maleic hydrazide(C), Retard(T)


Type of Pesticide: Growth retardant

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Slightly irritating
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Phosphonomethyl Glycine - glyphosate(C), Roundup(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Irritates lungs
  • External Exposure: Irritates eyes
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Thiadiazin(ol) - betazon(C), Basagran(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides, fungicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, and weakness caused by bentazon herbicides
  • External Exposure: Moderately irritating to skin, eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Triazines - atrazine(C), AAtrex(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Mildly irritating to skin, eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Uracils - bromacil(C), Hyvar(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure: Irritating to lungs
  • External Exposure: Irritating to skin, eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure:

 

Chemical Family: Urea - diuron(C), Karmex(T)


Type of Pesticide: Herbicides, insecticides

Action on Human System: Irritant

Symptoms:

  • Internal Exposure:
  • External Exposure: Moderately irritating to skin, eyes, nose, and throat
  • Chronic Exposure:

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(C) = Common name

(T) = Trade name

Table modified based on similar table in "Applying Pesticides Correctly", USDA, USEPA, written by Sally McDonald.

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Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning – Self Study Questions

 

  1. Are the symptoms of pesticide poisoning very different from all other types of poisoning?
  2. Does a person who has been continuously exposed to smaller quantities of toxic material over long periods of time usually show the same symptoms of poisoning as a person exposed suddenly to large quantities of toxic materials?
  3. Are the symptoms for all cases of pesticide poisoning the same?
  4. What are some of the symptoms of mild poisoning?
  5. Are the symptoms for mild poisoning similar to the early symptoms of acute poisoning?
  6. What are some of the signs for severe or acute poisoning?
  7. Does each pesticide in a chemical family require the same treatment and antidote in case of poisoning?

Answers to Self Study Questions - Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning

 

  1. No. Symptoms of pesticide poisoning are similar to those of other types of poisoning or other diseases.
  2. No.
  3. No. Each chemical family can attack the human body in a different way.
  4. Headache, fatigue, soreness in joints, irritation of nose and throat.
  5. Yes.
  6. Fever, intense thirst, vomiting, muscle twitches, pinpoint pupils, unconsciousness.
  7. Yes.

(RDG02072008)

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Disclaimer: Please read the pesticide label prior to use. The information contained at this web site is not a substitute for a pesticide label. Trade names used herein are for convenience only; no endorsement of products is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products implied. Most of this information is historical in nature and may no longer be applicable.