Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

EPA-Expo-Box (A Toolbox for Exposure Assessors)

EPA-Expo-Box icon




A pesticide is any chemical used to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate pests. They might be used to control insects, mice and other animals, weeds, or fungi. Pesticides also are used to kill organisms that can cause diseases such as bacteria and viruses, including those in hospital and medical environments. Pesticides products contain both active ingredients and inactive, or inert, ingredients. These chemicals may be harmful to people, animals, or the environment, depending on how they are used.

Pesticides include organic compounds, such as pyrethroids and paradichlorobenzene, as well as metals and other inorganic substances, such as certain tin compounds that have historically been used as antifoulants on the undersides of ships.

Pesticides have widespread applications and may affect human and environmental health in a variety of settings. Exposure to a particular pesticide may occur through multiple exposure routes (oral, dermal, and inhalation) depending on the type and use of the pesticide. Common sources of exposure to pesticides for the general population include residues in food and drinking water. Children are a highly susceptible population for pesticide exposure in part because of their hand-to-mouth behaviors. Occupational exposure to pesticides is a concern for farm workers and commercial pest control operators. See the Lifestages and Populations Tool Set in EPA-Expo-Box for additional information and resources specific to workers and children.

It is not the intent of this tool set to provide detailed information for specific pesticides. Detailed information can be obtained from EPA websites (see below). Instead, this tool set provides a general discussion of types of pesticides and an overview of factors that are relevant to conducting an assessment of pesticide exposure—specifically, exposure routes, exposure media, and potentially exposed populations. Additional information and resources can be found in the Routes and Media Tool Sets of EPA-Expo-Box.

Links to general information about pesticides related to human health and safety issues, environmental effects, pest control, pesticide regulatory activities, and compliance and enforcement information can be found here:

Resources related to pesticides and consumers, including pesticides in food and water are available at:

Pesticide fact sheets that contain general and chemical-specific information can be accessed here:

Top of Page

Jump to main content.