What is pesticide exposure and what are the symptoms?

Pesticide exposure can happen in many ways: touching treated surfaces or objects, eating or drinking food or water that contains pesticide residues, or breathing in spray as a pesticide is used. If you have been injured as a result of being exposed to a pesticide or fertilizer, please seek medical attention and then call the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798.

Not all pesticides carry the same level of risk. The most common route of exposure to pesticides is through the skin. This type of exposure may cause symptoms such as a rash. Your skin must come in direct contact with the pesticide product for this to occur. After a (liquid) pesticide application dries, exposure and risk to the pesticide diminishes; however, a risk remains upon entering into a pesticide treated area, especially for children and animals. Children and animals may have higher pesticide exposures than adults because of their low body weight and behaviors such as crawling on the floor that may result in greater contact with treated surfaces.

The best approach to avoid pesticide exposure from an area that has been treated or drifted on is to STAY OUT. If you do enter a treated area and later find out that an application occurred, leave the area at once and remove your shoes and clothing. Wash affected areas with plenty of soap and warm water after possible exposure to skin. Wash potentially contaminated clothing separately in soap and hot water, and then hang it on a clothesline to dry.

Pesticide droplets emitted during an application are often too large to be taken into the lungs. Under certain circumstances even if a person is not directly sprayed, it is possible to experience temporary respiratory and/or eye irritation, such as coughing or watering eyes. Persons with compromised or weak lungs may have longer-lasting effects or complications.

In addition to the temporary effects that a person may experience after coming into contact with a pesticide, other effects could develop after long term or repeated exposure to a pesticide. The type of health effect that could develop depends on the pesticide and many other factors (for example, the type of exposure, level of exposure, and age or health condition of the person). A doctor or a Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) should be consulted concerning health problems from exposure to a pesticide.

Injury to humans and animals from legally applied pesticides is extremely rare. In fact, in Minnesota, only a handful of verified injuries have occurred over the last decade. The most common reason persons and animals are injured from pesticides is because a pesticide is intentionally or accidentally ingested.

Under state law, a person may request information from the MDA about when, how, and what an applicator applied. A person may also request MDA to conduct an inspection. These requests can be made by completing an MDA form, Pesticide/Fertilizer Inspection Request and then mail it to:

Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Inspections & Permitting Unit
625 Robert Street North
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155-2538