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C-FERST Issue Profile: Agricultural Pesticides

Pesticides are chemical mixtures used to prevent, destroy, repel, or reduce the severity of pests that can cause damage to humans, crops or animals. Pests can include insects, mice, weeds, bacteria, viruses and different types of fungi.
Pesticides include:

  • Algicides, which control algae in swimming pools and other bodies of water;
  • Antifouling agents, which kill organisms attached to boat bottoms;
  • Fungicides, which kill fungi such as mildew, mold and rust;
  • Herbicides, which kill weeds;
  • Insecticides, which kill insects; and
  • Rodenticides, which control mice and other rodents.

EPA regulates pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and must also consider the potential harm from pesticides for species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Humans can be exposed to pesticides by inhaling them; absorbing them through skin; eating food treated with pesticides; or drinking water contaminated with pesticides. Some pesticides can remain in the environment for years, while others break down soon after they are released.
Pesticides vary in how toxic they are to humans and the environment. Some are known to cause cancer, birth defects or affect the body’s hormones or nervous and endocrine systems, while others irritate the skin and eyes.
Before manufacturers can sell pesticides in the U.S., EPA must evaluate them to ensure they meet federal safety standards to protect human health and the environment. EPA grants a license that permits a pesticide's distribution, sale and use only after the company meets EPA’s scientific and regulatory requirements.
Learn more about agricultural pesticides by exploring the links below.