A Closer Look At Pesticides

Oct. 31, 2011 | OPB

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The three pesticides at the heart of federal government’s rules to protect West Coast salmon aren’t part of the household lexicon: chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion. A closer look at each of the three:


  • Used: For feed and food crops and in cattle ear tags, on golf courses, and to control fire ants and mosquitoes for public health purposes.

  • Residential: Phased out beginning in 2000.

  • Human health: Can overstimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at very high exposures, respiratory paralysis and death.

  • Aquatic health: Very toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates.


  • Used: In agriculture to control insects on fruit, vegetable, nut and field crops

  • Residential: Prohibited since 2004.

  • Human health: Affects the chemicals that make the nervous system function properly. This results in a loss of control over the nervous system that eventually leads to the death of the insect.

  • Aquatic health: Moderately toxic to fish and amphibians.


  • Used: To control a wide variety of insects in agricultural settings and around people’s homes. Also used in public health mosquito control and fruit fly eradication programs

  • Residential: Used to control outside insects. Also an ingredient in shampoos to control head lice.

  • Human health: People who were exposed to enough malathion to become sick felt nauseated or vomited, had muscle tremors, cramps, weakness, shortness of breath, a slowed heart rate, headache, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

  • Aquatic health: Highly toxic to some fish, and other aquatic life, moderately toxic to other fish.

Source: National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University (

© 2011 OPB
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