Public Health Pesticides
Mark Robson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0061


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines a pesticide as any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, or controlling any pest, including vectors of human or animal disease; unwanted species of plants or animals causing harm during or otherwise interfering with the production, processing, storage, transport, or marketing of food, agricultural commodities, wood and wood products or animal feedstuffs; or substances which may be administered to animals for the control of insects, arachnids, or other pests in or on their bodies. A pesticide may be a chemical, biological, antimicrobial, or disinfectant agent, or a mechanical device used against a pest. Pests include insects, pathogens, weeds, mollusks, birds, mammals, fish, nematodes, and microbes that destroy food or fiber or transmit disease. Pesticides are often described as economic poisons, as they are compounds that are specifically designed, manufactured, distributed, and applied to control (kill) a pest. Pesticides have been used in agriculture since the first century BCE. Pesticides are often classified according to their chemistry. Pesticides can be classified as inorganic, synthetic, or biological; biological pesticides include microbial and biochemical compounds. Pesticides can also be classified by chemical type. For example, the major insecticide chemical types include organochlorines, organophosphates, and carbamates. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates annual pesticide used worldwide exceeded 5 billion pounds in the years 2000 and 2001. Herbicides accounted for the largest portion of total use, followed by other pesticide use, insecticide use, and fungicide use. Included in this article are scientific journals that provide current research on the topic of pesticides, textbooks that are key primary resource materials, online resources, a section on policy and regulation, some examples of the many pesticide databases that are available, a section on illness related to pesticide exposures, environmental effects of pesticides, pesticides as they relate to food and diet, animal models and testing of pesticide materials, and risk assessment methods.


The area of pesticide product development and mode of action is complex. Globally, it is estimated that over 5 billion pounds of pesticides are used annually. With the industry using more than 1,000 active ingredients, the chemistry and mode of action, formulation, and application methods make the knowledge base for pesticides enormous. The journal Pest Management Science focuses on the research associated with the discovery and development of pesticide compounds. Outlooks on Pest Management also looks at product development as well as regulatory issues and pesticide marketing. Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology publishes articles on the detailed scientific modes of action for pesticide compounds. The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health looks at all aspects of worker health and disease outcomes. There are a number of pesticide-related articles in each issue. The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health is also a useful journal for information on pesticides, as it publishes articles on the modes of action of the pesticide compounds as well as their toxicity to humans and other animals and the environment. The International Journal of Pest Management provides information on the issue of pesticides as they relate to pest populations, integrated control, and economics. The Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology covers issues surrounding environmental chemicals. Each issue has a number of articles related to pesticides, particularly focused on the measurement and assessment of pesticide compounds.

  • Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

    This journal contains articles on various media, including air, soil, water, and food contamination and pollution, as well as articles on methodology and other disciplines concerned with the introduction, presence, and effects of toxicants in the total environment.

  • International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH).

    The IJOEH is an interdisciplinary journal with a focus on workplace health promotion and the relationship between human health and the environment worldwide. The journal publishes original scientific and social scientific research, as well as commentary and analysis in the broad fields of occupational and environmental health.

  • International Journal of Pest Management.

    This journal publishes original research papers and review papers concerned with pest management in the broad sense, such as herbivores, parasites, competitors, and pathogens of plants of economic value in agriculture.

  • Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.

    This journal features original research in the field of environmental toxicology in general, as well as in special-interest fields such as target-organism toxicities, immunotoxicology, risk assessment, carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, ecotoxicology, environmental factors affecting health, and aquatic toxicology.

  • Outlooks on Pest Management.

    This journal focuses on all aspects of the management of weeds, pests, and diseases through chemistry, biology, and biotechnology. The contents include regulatory information on new products and discontinued products as well as trends, market analysis, and product stewardship.

  • Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology.

    This journal contains original scientific articles pertaining to the mode of action of plant-protection agents such as insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and similar compounds, including nonlethal pest-control agents and the biosynthesis of pheromones, hormones, and plant resistance agents. Manuscripts may include a biochemical, physiological, or molecular study for an understanding of comparative toxicology or selective toxicity of both target and nontarget organisms.

  • Pest Management Science.

    The journal’s focus is research and development in crop protection and pest control. Included in the indices are articles on pest resistance, discovery and screening of new pesticide products, commodity protections, metabolism and breakdown, and field performance of pesticide products.

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