What Is A Pesticide?


A pesticide is a chemical used to prevent, destroy, or repel pests. Pests can be insects, mice and other animals, weeds, fungi, or microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. Some examples of pests are termites causing damage to our homes, dandelions in the lawn, and fleas on our dogs and cats. Pesticides also are used to kill organisms that can cause diseases.

Most pesticides contain chemicals that can be harmful to people, animals, or the environment. For this reason the Office of Pesticide Programs of the Environmental Protection Agency regulates pesticides in the United States to protect public health and the environment.

Here are some examples of pesticide products we use in our homes

  • Cockroach sprays and baits
  • Mosquito sprays
  • Rat poisons
  • Flea and tick sprays, powders, and pet collars.

Did you know that these common products are considered pesticides?

  • Cleaners used to disinfect the kitchen floor.
  • Cleaning products used to remove the mildew on bathroom tiles.
  • Household plant sprays.
  • Lawn and garden products to kill insects and weeds.
  • Some swimming pool chemicals.


These are some common types of pesticides, and their purposes, used in our homes

Algicides     Control algae in swimming pools and water tanks.
Antimicrobials     Kill microorganisms (such as bacteria and viruses).
Attractants     Attractants are traps containing a pesticide and food to lure insects or rodents inside. However, food is not a pesticide even though it certainly attracts pests...like ants at a picnic.
Disinfectants and sanitizers     Kill disease-producing microorganisms in the kitchen and bathroom.
Fumigants     Produce gas or vapor intended to destroy pests in the house or in the ground.
Fungicides     Kill fungi (including blights, mildews, molds, and rusts).
Herbicides     Kill weeds.
Insecticides     Kill insects and other arthropods.
Miticides     Kill mites that feed on plants and animals.
Microbial pesticides     Microorganisms that kill or inhibit pests, including insects or other microorganisms.  Sometimes microorganisms get rid of pests simply by growing larger in numbers, using up the pests' food supply, and invading the pests' environment.
Molluscicides     Kill snails and slugs.
Nematicides     Kill nematodes (microscopic, worm-like organisms that feed on plant roots).
Pheromones     Biochemicals used to disrupt the mating behavior of insects.
Repellents     Repel pests, including insects (such as mosquitoes) and birds.
Rodenticides     Control mice and other rodents.


Source: Environmental Protection Agency
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