Many people do not associate pesticides with food poisoning but these do contain toxins which can cause a range of health problems which include food poisoning.

What are pesticides?

Pesticides are substances, for example chemicals which are used to kill or repel pests. These pests include insects, birds, mammals, weeds, roundworms and microbes.

Most people think of pesticides in conjunction with food such as those which are sprayed onto fields of crops to protect them against harm by insects, birds and other potential threats.

But pesticides can be used in a variety of other ways which include:

  • Herbicides: to kill/control weeds and other harmful plants
  • Rodenticides: to kill/control rodents such as mice and rats
  • Fungicides: to kill/control fungi (e.g. mushrooms)
  • Avicides: to kill/control birds

These are just a few of the many forms of pesticides.

There are many advantages of using pesticides but unfortunately, there are several disadvantages as well. One of these is the negative effect they have on our health.

Pesticide poisoning

Pesticides are often used on foods such as fruit and vegetables but consuming these is likely to cause health problems especially for people who handle these foods.

But consuming these foods is as equally as bad.

Causes of pesticide poisoning

It has been claimed that some pesticides cause several types of food poisoning bacteria to thrive and spread this illness. Certain bacteria such as e coli or salmonella respond to these pesticides by multiplying which increases the risk of food poisoning.

This debate still goes on.

Symptoms of pesticide poisoning

Eating fruit or vegetables which have been sprayed with pesticides can cause the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling weak and shaky
  • Twitchy muscles
  • Extreme tiredness

These symptoms often appear within minutes of exposure to a pesticide although in some cases they may take longer to develop.

Children and pesticide poisoning

Children often face a greater risk of pesticide poisoning which is due to the following reasons:

  • They are more likely to be exposed to the pesticide, for example, playing with infected soil.
  • They are more likely to be unaware of the risks of eating unwashed fruit or vegetables which have been sprayed with pesticides.
  • They are more susceptible to pesticide poisoning than adults

This poisoning can occur if they drink infected water or eat infected food. These pesticides can invade their bodies through their mouths but can also gain access through their skin or respiratory systems.

Babies are also at risk. Pesticides can infect even the unborn baby as they pass from the mother to the baby via the placenta. If the mother has consumed or been exposed to pesticides then she will pass these onto her unborn baby.

Breastfeeding is also a problem. A newborn baby can also be at risk as these pesticides may pass from the mother through her breast milk to the new baby.

These risks are greater for babies and children in developing countries.

Treatment for pesticide poisoning

It is important to seek treatment for pesticide poisoning even if you are unsure as to whether you have been infected or not. Contact your GP or obtain urgent medical advice if you have been exposed.

Food Poisoning Guide

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