Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Pesticide Residues: Impacts on Fauna and the Environment

Written By

Muzafar Riyaz, Rauf Ahmad Shah and Kuppusamy Sivasankaran

Submitted: 01 May 2021 Reviewed: 13 May 2021 Published: 18 June 2021

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.98379

From the Edited Volume

Biodegradation Technology of Organic and Inorganic Pollutants

Edited by Kassio Ferreira Mendes, Rodrigo Nogueira de Sousa and Kamila Cabral Mielke

Chapter metrics overview

1,375 Chapter Downloads

View Full Metrics


Pesticide residues are the traces of pesticide compounds that remain on or in the crop, water, soil and air after the application. Pesticide residues get into the environment as a result of application or by accident and can be found in the air, water and soil. Pesticide residues, if present in air, soil and water can pose a serious threat to biological diversity and human health. After depositing in the environment, the pesticides start to break down and forms metabolites that are more or less toxic. Pesticide residues decline as the pesticide breaks down over time, therefore the levels of residues are highest immediately after the application and diminish as the crops continue to grow. When exposed to sunlight or microorganisms in the soil, most pesticides degrade easily however, the utmost number of pesticides after application scatter into non-target areas or leach into groundwater or move in surface runoff by misuse and misapplication while handling or spraying. The impact of widespread usage of chemical pesticides has made an uncountable number of effects on human health, environment and other life forms and has turned into a serious issue across the globe. The present study aims to present an introduction to the environmental pesticide residues and various aspects highlighting their impact on nature and biodiversity.


  • Pesticide
  • Residues
  • Environment
  • Contamination
  • Human Health

1. Introduction

To ensure food safety around the world, it is important to build up all necessary measures to boost crop production. A crop loss due to pests is the biggest challenge our agriculture sector faces today. A decrease in crop yield from pest damage is one of the significant errands to guarantee crop productivity. Pesticides assume an imperative job in boosting rural profitability. The advantages of pesticides involve increased crop yield, expanded benefits for agriculturists and the counteractive action to crop diseases. Pesticides help farmers to overcome work costs by diminishing the measure of time required to control weeds and pests from fields. Pesticides are the chemical compounds that are used to control various pests and disease-spreading vectors like mosquitoes, ticks and household pests such as rats and cockroaches. The majority of the pesticides are used in agriculture to control various types of insect pests as well as non-insect pests like ticks and mites, weeds and fungal infestations and other crop diseases. Pesticides assume a comparative job in control the pests and enhance the crop from notorious pests thereby boosting the economy of a country. However, with the rise in global population, the crops are being cultivated on a large scale resulted in unrestricted utilization of pesticides. Pesticides have been linked to various environmental contaminations like soil, water and air [1]. In addition to control insect pests, weeds, vectors and other household pests, there has been a great impact of pesticide use on beneficial insects like pollinators, birds, fishes, non-target plants and on human health as well [2]. While utilizing the pesticides, the residues can remain in the environment for a long period and can be dispersed over a long distance. While spraying these chemical pesticides, a series of reactions can undergo; plants can take up pesticides through leaves and roots, the atmosphere can take up pesticides as vapors carried off as drift, pesticides can get ingested by insects, worms and microorganisms [3]. Soil is one of the final destinations of pesticides after application. Depending on the physical–chemical characteristics of the pesticide and soil, the pesticides may be sorbed the particles or be leached and/or carried on the surface by the rains reaching subterranean waters and rivers [4]. Pesticide residues in soil and water can pose a threat to biological diversity and human health. After getting deposited in the environment, the pesticides start to break down and forms metabolites that are more or less toxic [5]. Abiotic and biotic transformations play an important role in removing the pesticide residues from the environment. Environmental degradation of pesticides involves biotic transformation processes facilitated by microorganisms or plants and by abiotic processes such as chemical and photochemical reactions [6]. When a pesticide is applied on the crops the pesticide residues remain in the environment even when a farmer follows all label instructions. Pesticides can cause both acute and chronic effects on human health and the farmers are the most susceptible to intoxication. The pesticides especially the insecticides which are designed to control the insect pests have caused an unaccountable damage among the non-target insect pests which include insect pollinators such as honey bees, bumblebees, syrphid flies and insect predators which check the insect pest populations in an ecosystem, therefore breaching the protocols of insect food chains and food webs [7]. The avian fauna including some of the top predatory birds has also threatened by the large-scale utilization of chemical pesticides including the DDT, which is banned in more than 40 countries, however, very persistent and its residues are found to this day [8]. Fish diversity and other aquatic creatures both animals and plants are also affected by pesticides. The entry of pesticides into water bodies is because of man-made or by natural activities, therefore, can pose a serious threat to aquatic life. Agriculture is the main source of food across the planet and to ensure crop productivity, pesticides are indispensable, however, contamination of the environment raises concerns. The impact of chemical pesticides including health ailments among farmers and environmental contaminations has been reported from all parts of the world from both developed nations to developing nations [9].


2. Pesticides residues

The term Pesticide includes all of the following; herbicide, insecticide, nematicides, acaracide, rodenticide, bactericide, fungicide, insect repellent, disinfectant and so on. The most commonly used pesticides are fungicides which account for 80% of all pesticides used. Most pesticides are intended to serve as plant protection products which in general protect plants from weeds, fungi or insects. Target pests can include insects, plant pathogens, weeds, mollusks, birds that destroy crops, cause nuisance or spread diseases. Although pesticides have benefits, most of the pesticides utilized in farm fields or in residential areas to control disease vectors have several drawbacks such as potential toxicity to humans and other organisms.

With the large-scale utilization, they still hold the potential to contaminate our ecosystems, pollute soil, water, air, impact wildlife, beneficial pollinators and human health. Pesticides have physical–chemical properties that will inflate their behavior in the environment. These are the properties of pesticides which after application can cause short-term or long-term effects on the environment and other organisms as well by either persisting at a long period or by drifting to places other than target sites [10].

  1. Persistence: - How long the pesticide remains active in the environment.

  2. Mobility: - How easily the pesticide can move from where it is applied.

  3. Non-target toxicity: - How toxic is the pesticide to other organisms other than a pest.

  4. Volume of use: - How much of that pesticide is used in the environment.

A number of properties of pesticides can affect their behavior in their environment and can cause multiple numbers of environmental contaminations which include Persistence, Degradation Bio-accumulation, Volatility, Adsorption and Absorption (Figure 1) [11]. Sooner or later, pesticides are broken down in the environment by a process called Degradation. Depending upon the nature of pesticide and environmental conditions of a particular area, the process of degradation can be rapid or deliberate. However, microorganisms present in the soil, chemical reactions and sunlight play a key role in the degradation of pesticides. On the other hand, Pesticide molecules can be a food source of microbes while taking the advantage of moist and warm soils; microbes can turn the pesticide molecules into carbon dioxide and water. Some pesticides such as Chlordane and DDT do not break down quickly, this class of pesticides are called persistent pesticides [12]. Persistence can be greater in heavy clay or organic soil than in sandy soil. Some pesticides after intake through food, water or air may accumulate or build up in body tissues or body fat of humans and animals by a process called Bio-accumulation. These fat-soluble pesticides such as DDT are stores in the body’s fat, and when the fatty tissues are used for energy, the compounds are released and cause acute poisoning [13]. If the organism cannot eliminate the pesticides from its body, there is a chance that more pesticide compounds will store in the fat cells, if the organism is exposed to the pesticides routinely. In the 1940s scientists found residues of the man-made chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticide, DDT in human fat which was an alarming issue back then, as many chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides do not degrade readily and because they accumulate in fat, they move from one organism to another upward in the food chain all the way to humans [14]. Small levels of these types of pesticides in water and soil can magnify into a significant hazard to predators at the top of the food chain. When exposed to air or evaporate, pesticides may change into a vapor by a process called volatility. Once a pesticide evaporates, it is carried for miles simultaneously with the dust particles in the air (Figure 2). Pesticides can bind onto soil particles and organic matter by a process called adsorption. In adsorption, A pesticide can bind to the surface of soil particle similarly to that of magnetic attraction. The most adsorptive soils are clay and soils which are having a high concentration of organic matter. Since these pesticides are bound tightly with the soils, there is a very low chance for pesticides to leach with water and therefore they cannot move downward through soil and will less likely to reach groundwater. Water or wind can be the cause of the erosion of pesticides tightly adsorbed to the soil and not be so readily degraded by soil microorganisms. Pesticides can be taken up by the flora and faunal species including insects by a process called absorption. The fate of the pesticides can be determined by a combination of properties and not by a single property. The crusade of pesticides in an environment is very complex as after the application the pesticides can move by some natural processes such as drift, surface runoff, leaching and soil erosion (Figure 3) [15].

Figure 1.

Factors affecting pesticide and its degree of risk to the environment. (Designed in MS OFFICE POWERPOINT by Muzafar Riyaz).

Figure 2.

Drift can cause pesticides to travel away from the target site with vapors or dust particles while application. (Photo Muzafar Riyaz 2021).

Figure 3.

Movement of pesticide residues in the environment. (Designed in MS OFFICE POWERPOINT by Muzafar Riyaz).

2.1 Air

For over 12 days, pesticides may thoroughly orbit the globe and particles will abide in the air for around seven days; at a height of 6 km, for 30 days; at a height of 30 km, for two years [16]. The purpose of pesticide application is to control a pest population. Ideally, pesticide application should impact only the target organism and have little or no impact on other organisms in the environment. However, many pesticide applications have the potential to affect non-target organisms and move beyond the application site. The potential for a pesticide to contaminate the environment depends in large part on the nature of the pesticide, its ability to break down in a given substrate, type of formulation, application rate, frequency of application and environmental conditions [17, 18]. A pesticide can change its nature from liquid form to a vapor by a process called Volatilization. Pesticides become airborne in many ways, including volatilization, drift or through movement as dust borne particles. Volatility increases with increase in temperature, wind speed and humidity. Applying pesticides in cooler temperatures (below 29°C), or above wind speeds of (10 m/hour) or when the humidity is less high, it’s likely for pesticides to volatilize and move off the target sites. After application, volatilized pesticides such as Methyl-bromide drift off the application site and locomote into the atmosphere and taking advantage of air currents can relocate to longer distances as highly volatile compounds vaporize or evaporate at low temperatures [19]. On the other hand, volatility is a useful property in the application of pesticides which aids a pesticide to disperse across the farm field or application site or target area and therefore increase the exposure of pests to the pesticide however, it also can lead to exposure for non-target organisms. Environmental conditions such as air movement, relative humidity and temperature also influence volatilization. A number of pesticides, such as emulsifiable concentrate formulations and all of the fumigants, are classified as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) because they readily volatilize into the atmosphere. With the help of Sunlight, VOCs react with nitrogen oxides to produce ozone can which can contribute to smog and cause respiratory and plant injuries. Drift, on the other hand, refers to the airborne movement of pesticides away from the treatment site during application. Drift can damage plants away from the application site, reduce the effectiveness of a pesticide and cause environmental contamination such as water pollution. Drift is most serious when applications are made in windy conditions. Low relative humidity and high temperatures increase the potential for drift by causing spray droplets to evaporate faster [20]. Air temperature also contributes to pesticide drift by creating inversion layers near the soil surface; as a result of which warmer air layers trap cool air layers. At the time of pesticide application, fine spray droplets and pesticide vapors can be trapped by the inversion layers which can form a concentrated cloud with the ability to move from the treatment site. During pesticide application, droplet size also plays an important role in the movement of spray particles away from the application site. Small droplets fall through the air slowly and have a great potential to drift therefore while large droplets fall faster and are more likely to fall to the ground. Applications that release the pesticide as close to the target site as possible reduce drift. Spray pressure also affects drift by influencing the size of spray droplets; higher pressure decreases droplet size and increases drift. After application, fine particles of pesticides may drift off while splashing dust formulations and liquid droplets may stick to the soil particles and later be transported by the wind into the atmosphere [21].

2.2 Soil

Pesticide characteristics like water solubility, tendency to adsorb to the soil, pesticide persistence and soil characteristics like clay, sand and organic matter are important in determining the fate of the chemicals in the environment. Pesticides may be directly applied to the soil surface, incorporated into the top few inches of soil, or applied through chemigation (Figure 4). Once pesticides are present, the soil acts as a reservoir from which persistent pesticides can move into the bodies of invertebrates, be taken up by plants, pass into air or water or break down. After contact with the soil, pesticides are influenced by many factors, including adsorption rate, soil texture, organic matter content in the soil, microorganisms and the presence of water. The soil type influences pesticide persistence and leaching as the tendency for pesticides to be adsorbed vary with the proportion of clay and organic matter in the soil: the higher the percentage of clay and organic matter in the soil, the greater the number of adsorption sites as clay and inorganic matter increase the binding because they have more positive and negative charge sites. It also decreases the potential of a pesticide to move down through the soil, therefore the residues stay in the soil for longer periods of time without moving [22]. Pesticides tend to stay longer in soils with high clay content and organic matter. The amount of water in the soil affects the persistence of pesticides, when more water is added there is a high chance of pesticide release from the soil particle as the water can and force it onto a solution. Usually, the half-life of the pesticide is a used parameter by which the persistence of a pesticide can be measured. A half-life of a pesticide is the period that takes 50% of the pesticide to break down in the environment; the longer the half-life, the greater the possibility for movement of a pesticide before it degrades [23]. On contrary, adsorption refers to the tendency of pesticides to become attached to soil particles. After their release into the environment, pesticides undergo a series of reactions that transform the original compound into various degradation products. Comparing the parent compound, the breakdown products of pesticides may be more toxic, less toxic or equally. Chemically induced transformations of pesticides occur through hydrolysis, photodegradation, microbial degradation and oxidation–reduction. The beneficial soil microorganisms and their associated biotransformation in the soils have been adversely affected by the pesticide residues. The pesticides have also resulted in inactivation of nitrogen-fixing and phosphorus-solubilizing microorganisms soils. A number of studies have shown that some pesticides disturb molecular interactions between plants and N-fixing rhizobacteria and consequently inhibit the vital process of biological nitrogen fixation. Pesticide residue can also reduce activities of soil enzymes that are key indicators of soil health [24, 25, 26].

Figure 4.

Wet soil due to fresh pesticide application in a farm field. (Photo Muzafar Riyaz 2021).

2.3 Water

Water is the basis of life and only a tiny share of all the water on earth is fresh and renewed by the water cycle. Less than 1% of the water is left for drinking, agriculture, industry and nature. Another potential fate of the pesticide residues in the environment is moving into the water. The potential for movement is greater for pesticides that have a long persistence rate while other factors may include the tendency to adsorb to soil and high-water solubility. Lower adsorption can be a potential cause for pesticides to leach or move in the water. However, some pesticides that adsorb to soil particles, such as pyrethroid insecticides can be washed into surface water when soil and sediment erode. The water solubility of a pesticide affects the ease with which it leaches into soil or moves with surface runoff water [27]. Surface water and groundwater contamination can be closely connected and water-soluble pesticides by a problem in both. Surface water contamination occurs through a direct application (usually by accident) or through drift or runoff. Runoff is one of the most common ways that surface water can become contaminated. During pesticide application from a particular area, the movement of water and dissolved or suspended matter move into surface water or onto neighboring land. However, it’s likely to occur when heavy rainfall or irrigation takes place after an application. Groundwater contamination can happen in several ways. Pesticides contaminate groundwater through direct entry and by leaching through the soil. Any opening in the soil will be the cause of direct entry of pesticides into groundwater, as it allows water (or contaminants) to detour the soil’s natural filtration agents such as plant roots, burrows, abandoned wells etc. Spilling pesticides while mixing them near a well, pumping water into pesticide application equipment without using air gaps or backflow prevention devices and injecting pesticides into an irrigation system without a backflow prevention device can cause groundwater contamination [28]. Ground water has more possible chances to get contaminated than surface water by the pesticide residues as most surface waters (except deep lakes) have a rapid turnover rate, which means that fresh water dilutes the concentration of the contaminant quickly. On contrary, most surface waters contain free oxygen, which enhances the rate at which pesticides are broken down by microorganisms [29]. Another cause of the movement of pesticides is leaching, which makes a passage for a pesticide to move in water descending through the soil as a result of rainwater or irrigation water which percolates between the soil particles, carrying water-soluble pesticides with it. Nonpoint source pollution, as a result of normal applications on a farm field, orchard, or other wide areas over time, occurs when a small amount of pesticide enters groundwater from any location. Point source pollution, due to pesticide mishandling or from improperly constructed disposal sites or holding facilities, would include large quantities of contaminants entering groundwater at small defined locations. Pesticides that are more mobile in the soil and are resistant to degradation can easily settle down in the groundwater. Shallow water tables beneath treated areas are more susceptible to contamination because pesticides pass through less soil and therefore do not degrade much.

2.4 Food

Pesticides are considered important for protecting harvests and ensuring our food supply. All pesticides contain active substances which are essential ingredients that enable them to function. This can be a chemical or a microorganism such as a bacterium or a virus. In some cases, the chemical works by making the crop less palatable for pests. However, the pesticides work by simply killing or damaging the insect pests, weeds, fungi and so on. In some cases, small amounts called residues can find their way into food that humans eat [30]. These residues could be harmful if they exceed certain levels. There are many ways in which pesticide residues can get into our food [31]. Residues in treated crops can be carried from the field into the food by direct application of pesticides on crops till the time of harvest. Pesticide residues can get into the water supply or they can contaminate soil and animal feed, therefore, find their way into our food indirectly. The human food chain is also affected by the pesticide residues left in crops soil and water. Intake of pesticide residues in the body has been connected to birth imperfection, danger to the embryo, disease, hereditary deformities, neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption [32].

Pesticide residues can pose a risk to the heath of end consumers, if residue levels are too high. This is maintained by through Maximum residue levels (MRLs) which are the highest amounts of an individual pesticide that is permitted to be present. Pesticide residues are identified and quantified by comparing the sample extract to a calibration standard solution and analyzing them by liquid or gas chromatography coupled with mass spectroscopy. Once pesticides are demonstrated to be safe for the consumers, they have MRLs set for them which are determined based on rigorous evaluations. A maximum residue level is the maximum amount of residue that is legally permitted in food measured in milligrams of substance per kilogram of food based on good agricultural practices. MRLs are set far below levels that could possibly pose a risk to human health. Since MRLs are not safety limits but trading standards, these are not determined by the industry. However, MRLs are determined by independent government agencies which fully review each active substance present in pesticides. A number of reasons by which MRLs can surpass their limit of 3–5% which include; the incorrect way of pesticide application or exceptional climatic or crop conditions have occurred [33, 34, 35].


3. Impact of pesticide residues

The intemperate utilization of pesticides has made catastrophic concerns about the fatalistic consequences on human prosperity and a large number of pesticides are not degradable; they hold on in the soil, drain to ground and surface water and defile the more extensive environment [36]. Pesticide use around the world has brought about various instances of acute and chronic poisoning, with impacts of proliferating peril on human wellbeing, from delicate effects to death [37]. Exposure to pesticides normally occurs while preparing the spray solutions and while showering the pesticides on crops. Proceeded with an introduction to sub-deadly amounts of pesticides for a protracted timeframe, may result in unending health-related issues among people [38]. Comparative health impacts are reliant upon the nature of the substance, the quantity received, course of the entrance, for example, intake by breath, ingestion or skin assimilation and individual perceptivity. Due to pesticides, there are possible incidences of several chronic diseases and disorders, such as cancer, diabetes, respiratory failures and fertility issues examined by several studies [39]. Different investigations have uncovered a connection between pesticide use and sarcomas, numerous myelomas, malignant growth of the prostate, pancreas, lungs, ovaries, the breast, gonads, liver, kidneys, alimentary tracts and brain [40, 41, 42]. As indicated by a 2017 European Food Safety Authority report, 44% of food samples conventionally produced contained one or more significant residues [43]. Pesticides have been linked to a wide range of human health hazards ranging from short-term impacts such as headache and nausea to chronic impacts like cancer, reproductive harm and endocrine disruption [44]. Chronic health effects may occur years after even minimal exposure to pesticides in the environment or result from the pesticide residues which gets transported to humans through the food and water. Pesticides have been linked to many types of cancers among humans. Some of the most prevalent forms include leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain, bone and breast, ovarian, prostate, testicular and liver cancers [45]. Mounting evidence suggests that exposure to pesticides disrupts the endocrine system [46]. As the highest number of pesticides are synthetic chemicals, they can elicit a physiological reaction after getting an entry into a plant or animal body, which means if the pesticide can kill a creature; humans, domestic animals, pets, beneficial insect diversity such as pollinators and predators [47], birds, aquatic animals and plants, wildlife [48], non-target plants and our surrounding environment will also get affected by these chemical pesticides (Figure 5). Apart from all these consequences, pesticides can contaminate air, water and soil which in turn can be a cause of ailing human health across the globe [49, 50, 51]. The impact of various classes of pesticides on human beings and other animals have been listed in (Table 1).

Figure 5.

Impact of pesticide residues on environment and different life forms. (Designed in MS OFFICE POWERPOINT by Muzafar Riyaz).

S. NoName (Trade name)Chemical FormulaImpacts onReferences
Human HealthOther Animals
IChlorinated Hydrocarbons
1DDTC14H9Cl5Cancer, Nervous system disorders, Respiratory damage, Reproductive organs, Immune system and endocrine disruptions, Birth defectsCentral nervous system of Insects and other Animals, eggshell production in birds, Wildlife, Aquatic life including Fishes, sealions etc.[52, 53, 54, 55]
2MethoxychlorC6H15Cl3O2Cancer, Central nervous depression, diarrhea, damage to liver, kidney, and heartPhysiological disruptions in animals, fishes and birds especially aquatic birds.[56]
3ChlorobenzilateC16H14Cl2O3Carcinogenic, Genotoxic, Eye damageToxic to Insects including honey bees, birds and fishes.[57, 58]
4BHCC6H6Cl6Highly carcinogenic, dermatitis, psoriasis, burning, rashes,Effects on domestic animals, wildlife and aquatic organisms.[59, 60]
5ToxapheneC10H10Cl8Carcinogenic, Immune system failure, Reproductive organ damage, DNA damage,Physiological disruptions in animals, adult reduction & egg shortening in birds, wildlife and fishes.[61, 62]
6AldrinC12H8Cl6Systemic, neurological, reproductive/developmental, immunological, genotoxic and tumorigenic.Physiological disruption in Birds, toxic to aquatic animals, wildlife, domestic animals.[63, 64, 65]
7DieldrinC12H8Cl6OCarcinogenic, neurological, reproductive/developmental, immunological and genotoxic.Carcinogenic, Highly toxic to birds, wildlife and other animals. Physiological disruptions in aquatic animals.[66, 67]
8EndosulfanC9H6Cl6O2 SCancer, Acute and chronic toxicity, respiratory failure, endocrine disruption, reproductive failure, DNA damagePhysiological, developmental, neurotoxic disruptions in birds, fishes, wildlife and other aquatic organisms.[68, 69, 70, 71, 72]
9ChlorfenvinphosC12H14O4Cl3PDevelopmental, reproductive, and immunologic effectsPhysiological disruptions in animals, effects on the aquatic animals and birds.[73, 74]
10Methyl parathionC8N10NO5PSHeadaches, nausea, night-waking, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, mental confusion, nervous system, cardiovascular and reproductive systemToxic to earthworms, fishes, insects, and other aquatic organisms. Physiological and metabolic disruptions in Fishes.[75, 76, 77]
11DiazinonC12H21N2O3PSCancer, Reproductive system, Acute and chronic toxicity, respiratory failure, endocrine disruptionHighly toxic to birds and bees and other insects, birds and fishes.[78, 79, 80, 81]
12EthionC9H22O4P2S4Clinical toxicity, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, respiratory problems and undue secretionsToxic to fishes, birds, aquatic organism, wildlife and domestic animals.[82, 83, 84]
13MalathionC10H19O6PS2Liver, kidney, testis, ovaries, lung, pancreas, blood, genotoxic and carcinogenicToxic to fishes, birds, aquatic creatures, domestic pets, and other animals.[85, 86, 87]
15CarbarylC12H11NO2Neurological, Reproductive, Immunological disorders, possible carcinogen.Moderate to high effect on birds, fishes and other animals.[88, 89]
16AminocarbC11H16O2N2Cholinesterase inhibition, effects on the nervous system, sometimes death.Toxic to birds, mammals and other animals including fishes and wildlife[90, 91]
17CarbofuranC7H15NO3Body weakness, abdominal pain, blurred vision, nausea, sweating, muscle shuddering, coordination dysfunctions, respiratory and nervous system disorders.Highly toxic to birds, Toxic to aquatic animals including fishes, other animals and non-target terrestrial creatures.[92, 93, 94]
18AldicarbC7H14N2O2 SHeadache, nausea, sweating, diarrhea, coordination system disruptions and sometimes death.Toxic to aquatic organisms including fishes, toxic to birds and other organisms.[95, 96, 97]
19CypermethrinC22H19Cl2NO3Neurotoxic, Hepatoxic, effects on behavior, molecular level and reproductive system.Toxic to birds, aquatic organism including fishes and other creatures.[98, 99, 100]
20DeltamethrinC22H19Br2NO3Paranesthesia, Unwanted sensations, burning and partial numbness, “pins and needles”, skin problems.Toxic to domestic animals, aquatic organisms and terrestrial animals and plants.[101, 102, 103]

Table 1.

Impact of some commonly used synthetic pesticides on human health and other animals.


4. Discussion and conclusion: strategies and alternatives

Pesticide movement can be reduced in these natural processes by developing strategic farming practices. To reduce pesticide drift, farmers can be provided with such spray nozzles that produce larger spray droplets or lowering the boom of a sprayer. Surface runoff of pesticides can be reduced by no-till or minimum tillage practices which can also reduce pesticide movement via soil erosion. Leaching is the movement of water down through the soil, potentially to tile lines and surface waters or groundwater. Adsorptive pesticides are less likely to leach because they stick to organic matter. Increasing the amount of organic matter in the soils, manures and crop residues can be a better alternative to farmers. Pesticides can also be prevented to enter the environment by handling pesticides with care. Farmers should be encouraged to store the pesticides properly so they do not contaminate organisms or the environment and when the pesticide application is done, one can dispose of the empty containers to pesticide container collection sites. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can help in control pests without pesticides. However, if the pesticide is being used, reading of pesticide label and checking environmental precautions should be made mandatory for farmers. The benefits of pesticide invention and application have saved our world from hunger and have caused direct adverse threats to nature as well. Considering the rich biodiversity of our planet it is impossible to assess the effect of pesticides on every organism and to conclude that any pesticide is completely safe. From the results of the recent studies, it is evident that we are yet to learn the unknown effects of pesticides on life forms and the physical world. The result of pesticide use for many decades has taught humans to search for a solution to the drastic impact it has created on nature. The remedy to the unintentional persistence of toxicity of pesticides in the environment came from nature itself with pesticide degrading microbes and also by the observation of abiotic degradation in the environment. The unexplored aspects of pesticide toxicity and their biotic and abiotic degradation in qualitative and quantitative aspects in air, water, soil and living beings need to be addressed. The identification of pesticide degrading microbes and intentional application of these organisms through bioremediation and comprehensive research using innovative technologies will create a revolution for a safer tomorrow. The present study aims to encourage people to the importance of alternative methods to solve the problem of the present and future generations. As proved by many, the remedy to the problem is the usage of alternative methods like biological control and biopesticides. The agents of biological control, as well as compounds for biopesticides, are to be comprehensively explored and utilized. The awareness of the people especially the farmers is the first step towards this movement. The easy and cheap access to biological pesticides and biological control measures are to be studied and made available to the public through government and non-governmental organizations. The present study thus finds an important place in the process of conservation and protection of nature and natural resources and of human health towards a bright future.



The authors wish to thank Muzafar Riyaz (Corresponding author) for carrying out extensive field works to study the adverse effects of pesticides on farmers health and other organisms.


Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  1. 1. Carvalho FP. Pesticides, environment, and food safety. Food and Energy Security. 2017 May;6(2):48-60.
  2. 2. EEA. 2013. Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation. European Environment Agency, Report No 1/2013. EEA, Copenhagen
  3. 3. Ware GW. Effects of pesticides on nontarget organisms. Residue Reviews. 1980:173-201
  4. 4. Riyaz M, Iqbal WA, Sivasankaran K, Ignacimuthu S. Impact on Farmers’ Health Due to the Pesticide Exposure in the Agrarian Zones of Kashmir Valley: A Review. Acta Scientific Agriculture. 2020, 4 (2), 16-22
  5. 5. Tiryaki O, Temur C. The fate of pesticide in the environment. Journal of Biological and Environmental Sciences. 2010;4(10):29-38
  6. 6. Ragnarsdottir KV. Environmental fate and toxicology of organophosphate pesticides. Journal of the Geological Society. 2000 Jul 1;157(4):859-876.
  7. 7. Ndakidemi B, Mtei K, Ndakidemi PA. Impacts of synthetic and botanical pesticides on beneficial insects. Agricultural Sciences. 2016;7(06):364.
  8. 8. Mitra A, Chatterjee C, Mandal FB. Synthetic chemical pesticides and their effects on birds. Research Journal of Environmental Toxicology. 2011;5(2):81-96.
  9. 9. Popp J, Pető K, Nagy J. Pesticide productivity and food security. A review. Agronomy for sustainable development. 2013 Jan 1;33(1):243-255.
  10. 10. Gavrilescu M. Fate of pesticides in the environment and its bioremediation. Engineering in life sciences. 2005 Dec;5(6):497-526.
  11. 11. Pereira VJ, da Cunha JP, de Morais TP, de Oliveira JP, de Morais JB. Physical-chemical properties of pesticides: concepts, applications, and interactions with the environment. Bioscience Journal. 2016 Jun 1;32(3).
  12. 12. Edwards CA, Adams RS. Persistent pesticides in the environment. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology. 1970 Jan 1;1(1-4):7-67
  13. 13. Vighi M, Matthies M, Solomon KR. Critical assessment of pendimethalin in terms of persistence, bioaccumulation, toxicity, and potential for long-range transport. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B. 2017 Jan 2;20(1):1-21.
  14. 14. Morgan DP, Roan CC. The metabolism of DDT in man. In Essays in toxicology 1974 Jan 1 (Vol. 5, pp. 39-97). Elsevier
  15. 15. Arias-Estévez M, López-Periago E, Martínez-Carballo E, Simal-Gándara J, Mejuto JC, García-Río L. The mobility and degradation of pesticides in soils and the pollution of groundwater resources. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 2008 Feb 1;123(4):247-260.
  16. 16. Miller GT. Living in the environment: an introduction to environmental science. Wadsworth publishing company; 1990
  17. 17. Kosikowska M, Biziuk M. Review of the determination of pesticide residues in ambient air. TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry. 2010 Oct 1;29(9):1064-1072.
  18. 18. Breidenbach AW. Pesticide residues in air and water. Archives of Environmental Health: An International Journal. 1965 Jun 1;10(6):827-830.
  19. 19. Spencer WF, Farmer WJ, Cliath MM. Pesticide volatilization. In Residue Reviews 1973 (pp. 1-47). Springer, New York, NY.
  20. 20. Woodrow JE, Gibson KA, Seiber JN. Pesticides and related toxicants in the atmosphere. Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology Volume 247. 2018:147-96.
  21. 21. Van den Berg F, Kubiak R, Benjey WG, Majewski MS, Yates SR, Reeves GL, Smelt JH, Van der Linden AM. Emission of pesticides into the air. InFate of Pesticides in the Atmosphere: Implications for Environmental Risk Assessment. 1999 (pp. 195-218). Springer, Dordrecht.
  22. 22. Gevao B, Semple KT, Jones KC. Bound pesticide residues in soils: a review. Environmental pollution. 2000 Apr 1;108(1):3-14.
  23. 23. Kah M, Beulke S, Brown CD. Factors influencing degradation of pesticides in soil. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2007 May 30;55(11):4487-4492.
  24. 24. Hussain S, Siddique T, Saleem M, Arshad M, Khalid A. Impact of pesticides on soil microbial diversity, enzymes, and biochemical reactions. Advances in agronomy. 2009 Jan 1;102:159-200.
  25. 25. Ataikiru TL, Okpokwasili GS, Okerentugba PO. Impact of pesticides on microbial diversity and enzymes in soil. South Asian Journal of Research in Microbiology. 2019 Aug 13:1-6.
  26. 26. Chowdhury A, Pradhan S, Saha M, Sanyal N. Impact of pesticides on soil microbiological parameters and possible bioremediation strategies. Indian Journal of microbiology. 2008 Mar 1;48(1):114-127.
  27. 27. Pérez-Lucas G, Vela N, El Aatik A, Navarro S. Environmental risk of groundwater pollution by pesticide leaching through the soil profile. In Pesticides-use and misuse and their impact in the environment. 2018 Nov 29. IntechOpen.
  28. 28. Sankhla MS, Kumari M, Sharma K, Kushwah RS, Kumar R. Water contamination through pesticide & their toxic effect on human health. International Journal for Research in Applied Science and Engineering Technology. 2018 Feb 1;6(1):967-970
  29. 29. Aydinalp C, Porca MM. The effects of pesticides in water resources. Journal of Central European Agriculture. 2004 Apr 16;5(1):5-12
  30. 30. Fan AM, Jackson RJ. Pesticides and food safety. Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology. 1989 Apr 1;9(2):158-174.
  31. 31. Abelson PH. Pesticides and food. Science. 1993 Feb 26;259(5099):1235-1236
  32. 32. Kim KH, Kabir E, Jahan SA. Exposure to pesticides and the associated human health effects. Science of the Total Environment. 2017 Jan 1;575: 525-535.
  33. 33. MacLachlan DJ, Hamilton D. Estimation methods for maximum residue limits for pesticides. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. 2010 Nov 1;58(2):208-218.
  34. 34. Ambrus A, Yang YZ. Global harmonization of maximum residue limits for pesticides. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2016 Jan 13;64(1):30-35.
  35. 35. Yeung MT, Kerr WA, Coomber B, Lantz M, McConnell A. Why maximum residue limits for pesticides are an important international issue. In Declining International Cooperation on Pesticide Regulation. 2017 (pp. 1-9). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  36. 36. Butler PA. Monitoring pesticide pollution. Bioscience. 1969 Oct 1;19(10):889-891.
  37. 37. Nicolopoulou-Stamati P, Maipas S, Kotampasi C, Stamatis P, Hens L. Chemical pesticides and human health: the urgent need for a new concept in agriculture. Frontiers in public health. 2016 Jul 18;4:148.
  38. 38. Tomer V, Sangha JK, Ramya HG. Pesticide: An appraisal on human health implications. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, India Section B: Biological Sciences. 2015 Jun;85(2):451-463.
  39. 39. Mostafalou S, Abdollahi M. Pesticides: an update of human exposure and toxicity. Archives of toxicology. 2017 Feb;91(2):549-599.
  40. 40. Alavanja MC, Hoppin JA, Kamel F. Health effects of chronic pesticide exposure: cancer and neurotoxicity. Annual Reviews of Public Health. 2004 Apr 21;25:155-197.
  41. 41. Valcke M, Levasseur ME, da Silva AS, Wesseling C. Pesticide exposures and chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology: an epidemiologic review. Environmental Health. 2017 Dec;16(1):1-20.
  42. 42. Lee WJ. Pesticide exposure and health. Journal of Environmental Health Sciences. 2011;37(2):81-93.
  43. 43. European Food Safety Authority and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (EFSA and ECDC). The European Union summary report on trends and sources of zoonoses, zoonotic agents and food-borne outbreaks in 2017. EFSa Journal. 2018 Dec;16(12):e05500.
  44. 44. Sabarwal A, Kumar K, Singh RP. Hazardous effects of chemical pesticides on human health–Cancer and other associated disorders. Environmental toxicology and pharmacology. 2018 Oct 1;63: 103-114.
  45. 45. Bassil KL, Vakil C, Sanborn M, Cole DC, Kaur JS, Kerr KJ. Cancer health effects of pesticides: systematic review. Canadian Family Physician. 2007 Oct 1;53(10):1704-1711
  46. 46. Mnif W, Hassine AI, Bouaziz A, Bartegi A, Thomas O, Roig B. Effect of endocrine disruptor pesticides: a review. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2011 Jun;8(6):2265-2303.
  47. 47. Sanchez-Bayo F, Goka K. Impacts of pesticides on honey bees. Beekeeping and Bee Conservation-Advances in Research. 2016 May 20;4: 77-97. IntechOpen.
  48. 48. Moore NW. Effects of pesticides on wildlife. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. Biological Sciences. 1967 Feb 21;167(1007):128-133.
  49. 49. Costa LG. Toxic effects of pesticides. Casarett and Doull’s toxicology: the basic science of poisons. 2008;8: 883-930
  50. 50. Ndakidemi B, Mtei K, Ndakidemi PA. Impacts of synthetic and botanical pesticides on beneficial insects. Agricultural Sciences. 2016;7(06):364.
  51. 51. Bertolote JM, Fleischmann A, Eddleston M, Gunnell D. Deaths from pesticide poisoning: a global response. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;189(3):201-203.
  52. 52. Thuy TT. Effects of DDT on environment and human health. Journal of Education and Social Sciences. 2015; 2:108-114
  53. 53. Cohn BA, La Merrill M, Krigbaum NY, Yeh G, Park JS, Zimmermann L, Cirillo PM. DDT exposure in utero and breast cancer. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2015 Aug 1;100(8):2865-2872.
  54. 54. Byard JL, Paulsen SC, Tjeerdema RS, Chiavelli D. DDT, chlordane, toxaphene and PCB residues in Newport Bay and Watershed: assessment of hazard to wildlife and human health. Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology Volume 235. 2015:49-168.
  55. 55. Ware GW. Effects of DDT on reproduction in higher animals. Residue reviews. 1975:119-140.
  56. 56. Chen G. Methoxychlor. In: Encyclopedia of Toxicology, Wexler, P (Ed.); 3rd Edition. 2014, (pp. 254-255). Academic Press.
  57. 57. Lewis KA, Tzilivakis J, Warner DJ, Green A. An international database for pesticide risk assessments and management. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal. 2016 May 18;22(4):1050-1064.
  58. 58. Janz DM. Chlorobenzilate. In: Encyclopedia of Toxicology, Wexler, P (Ed.); 3rd Edition. 2014. (pp. 874-875). Academic Press.
  59. 59. Loomis D, Guyton K, Grosse Y, El Ghissasi F, Bouvard V, Benbrahim-Tallaa L, Guha N, Mattock H, Straif K, IARC L, International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group. Carcinogenicity of lindane, DDT, and 2, 4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. The Lancet. Oncology. 2015 Aug;16(8):891-892.
  60. 60. Shirakawa M. Experimental Studies on the Toxicity of Benzene Hexachloride (Bhc) Iv. Effects of Lindane Vapor to Insects and Mammals. The Kurume Medical Journal. 1959 May 31;5(4):230-244.
  61. 61. Wallace, D.R. Toxaphene. In: Encyclopedia of Toxicology, Wexler, P (Ed.); 3rd Edition. 2014. (pp. 606-609). Academic Press.
  62. 62. Jongbloed RH, Visschedijk AJ, Van Dokkum HP, Laane RW. Toxaphene: An analysis of possible problems in the aquatic environment. RIKZ/2000.010. 2000
  63. 63. US-EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency). Health Effects Support Document for Aldrin/Dieldrin. Office of Water (4304T), Health and Ecological Criteria Division, Washington DC, USA, 2003
  64. 64. Brown VK, Richardson A, Robinson J, Stevenson DE. The effects of aldrin and dieldrin on birds. Food and cosmetics toxicology. 1965 Oct;3(4):675-679.
  65. 65. Honeycutt M, Shirley S. Aldrin. In: Encyclopedia of Toxicology, Wexler, P (Ed.); 3rd Edition. 2014. (pp. 126-129). Academic Press.
  66. 66. Honeycutt M, Shirley S. Dieldrin. In: Encyclopedia of Toxicology, Wexler, P (Ed.); 3rd Edition. 2014. (pp107-110). Academic Press.
  67. 67. Scott TG, Willis YL, Ellis JA. Some effects of a field application of dieldrin on wildlife. The Journal of Wildlife Management. 1959 Oct 1;23(4):409-427.
  68. 68. Singh P, Volger B, Gordon, E. Endosulfan. In: Encyclopedia of Toxicology, Wexler, P (Ed.); 3rd Edition. 2014. (pp. 341-343). Academic Press.
  69. 69. Sebastian R, Raghavan SC. Induction of DNA damage and erroneous repair can explain genomic instability caused by endosulfan. Carcinogenesis. 2016 Oct 1;37(10):929-940.
  70. 70. Naqvi SM, Vaishnavi C. Bioaccumulative potential and toxicity of endosulfan insecticide to non-target animals. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part C: Comparative Pharmacology. 1993 Jul 1;105(3):347-361.
  71. 71. Prakash PJ, Geetha R, Krishnappa H, Sulaiman SM, Rao KV. Effect of Endosulfan 35% EC on the egg laying and egg shell thickness in Japanese quails. Research Journal of Environmental Toxicology. 2009;3(3):140-146
  72. 72. Sutherland TD, Horne I, Weir KM, Russell RJ, Oakeshott JG. Toxicity and residues of endosulfan isomers. Reviews of environmental contamination and toxicology. 2004:99-113.
  73. 73. Reed NR, Koshlukova S. Chlorfenvinphos. In: Encyclopedia of Toxicology, Wexler, P (Ed.); 3rd Edition. 2014. (pp. 851-854). Academic Press.
  74. 74. Dorsey AS, Kueberuwa SS. Toxicological Profile for Chlorfenvinphos. Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1997:1-220
  75. 75. Edwards FL, Tchounwou PB. Environmental toxicology and health effects associated with methyl parathion exposure–a scientific review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2005 Dec;2(3):430-441.
  76. 76. Suthar S. Toxicity of methyl parathion on growth and reproduction of three ecologically different tropical earthworms. International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. 2014 Feb 1;11(1):191-198.
  77. 77. Marina Y, Tabche LM, Garcı́a CM. Bioaccumulation of methyl parathion and its toxicology in several species of the freshwater community in Ignacio Ramirez dam in Mexico. Ecotoxicology and environmental safety. 1997 Oct 1;38(1):53-62.
  78. 78. Beane Freeman LE, Bonner MR, Blair A, Hoppin JA, Sandler DP, Lubin JH, Dosemeci M, Lynch CF, Knott C, Alavanja MC. Cancer incidence among male pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study cohort exposed to diazinon. American journal of epidemiology. 2005 Dec 1;162(11):1070-1079.
  79. 79. Harchegani AB, Rahmani A, Tahmasbpour E, Kabootaraki HB, Rostami H, Shahriary A. Mechanisms of diazinon effects on impaired spermatogenesis and male infertility. Toxicology and industrial health. 2018 Sep;34(9):653-664.
  80. 80. Sheffield SR, Lochmiller RL. Effects of field exposure to diazinon on small mammals inhabiting a semienclosed prairie grassland ecosystem. I. Ecological and reproductive effects. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry: An International Journal. 2001 Feb;20(2):284-296.
  81. 81. Clarke Z. Diazinon. In: xPharm: The Comprehensive Pharmacology Reference. 2007. (pp. 1-4). Elsevier.
  82. 82. Dewan A, Patel AB, Pal RR, Jani UJ, Singel VC, Panchal MD. Mass ethion poisoning with high mortality. Clinical Toxicology. 2008 Jan 1;46(1):85-88.
  83. 83. Prasanna C, Anithasmruthi C, Venkatarathnamma V. A Study on Oxygen Consumption in Freshwater Fish Labeo Rohita Exposed to Lethal and Sub Lethal Concentrations of Ethion 50% Ec. Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology. 2020 Oct 1;14(4)
  84. 84. Fry DM. Reproductive effects in birds exposed to pesticides and industrial chemicals. Environmental health perspectives. 1995 Oct;103(suppl 7):165-171.
  85. 85. Badr AM. Organophosphate toxicity: updates of malathion potential toxic effects in mammals and potential treatments. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 2020 Jul; 27:26036-26057.
  86. 86. Jira D, Janousek S, Pikula J, Vitula F, Kejlova K. Toxicity hazard of organophosphate insecticide malathion identified by in vitro methods. Neuroendocrinology Letters. 2012 Jan 1; 33:3-9
  87. 87. Deka S, Mahanta R. Malathion toxicity on fish-a review. International Journal of Current Research. 2016;8(12):44120-44128
  88. 88. Reed NR, Koshlukova S. Carbaryl. In: Encyclopedia of Toxicology, Wexler, P (Ed.); 3rd Edition. 2014. (pp. 668-672). Academic Press.
  89. 89. Morais S, Dias E, Pereira ML. Carbamates: human exposure and health effects. The impact of pesticides. 2012:21-38
  90. 90. Rodgers KE. Immunotoxicity of Pesticides. In: Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology, Krieger, R. I. and Krieger, W. C. (Eds.); 2ndEdition. 2001. (pp. 769-782). Academic Press
  91. 91. Weinberger P, Greenhalgh R. Some adjuvant effects on the fate of fenitrothion and aminocarb. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry: An International Journal. 1984 Apr;3(2):325-334.
  92. 92. Gupta RC. Carbofuran toxicity. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A Current Issues. 1994 Dec 1;43(4):383-418.
  93. 93. Freedman B. Pesticides. In: Environmental Ecology, Freedman, B. (Ed.); 2nd Edition. 1995. (pp. 213-277). Academic Press
  94. 94. Dobšíková R. Acute toxicity of carbofuran to selected species of aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Plant Protection Science. 2003;39(3):103.
  95. 95. Baron RL, Merriam TL. Toxicology of aldicarb. Reviews of environmental contamination and toxicology. 1988:1-70.
  96. 96. Pant J, Tewari H, Gill TS. Effects of aldicarb on the blood and tissues of a freshwater fish. Bulletin of environmental contamination and toxicology. 1987 Jan 1;38(1):36-41.
  97. 97. Moore DR, Teed RS, Rodney SI, Thompson RP, Fischer DL. Refined avian risk assessment for aldicarb in the United States. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management: An International Journal. 2010 Jan;6(1):83-101.
  98. 98. Aman S, Bhuvnesh Y, Shipra R, Baljeet Y. Cypermethrin toxicity: a review. Journal of Forensic Sciences & Criminal Investigation. 2018;9(4):555767.
  99. 99. Suzan AA. The pathological effect of cypermethrin on domestic pigeons (Culumba livia gaddi) at Basrah City/Southern Iraq. International Journal of Poultry Science. 2012 Apr 1;11(4):302-310
  100. 100. Tiwari S, Tiwari R, Singh A. Impact of cypermethrin on fingerlings of common edible carp (Labeo rohita). The Scientific World Journal. 2012 Jan 1;2012.
  101. 101. Doi H, Kikuchi H, Murai H, Kawano Y, Shigeto H, Ohyagi Y, Kira J. Motor neuron disorder simulating ALS induced by chronic inhalation of pyrethroid insecticides. Neurology. 2006 Nov 28;67(10):1894-1895.
  102. 102. Elias P. The use of deltamethrin on farm animals. In Insecticides-development of safer and more effective technologies. Chapter 18; In: Insecticides-Development of Safer and More Effective Technologies; Trdan, S. (Ed.). 2013. (pp. 495-503). IntechOpen.
  103. 103. Chrustek A, Hołyńska-Iwan I, Dziembowska I, Bogusiewicz J, Wróblewski M, Cwynar A, Olszewska-Słonina D. Current research on the safety of pyrethroids used as insecticides. Medicina. 2018 Sep;54(4):61

Written By

Muzafar Riyaz, Rauf Ahmad Shah and Kuppusamy Sivasankaran

Submitted: 01 May 2021 Reviewed: 13 May 2021 Published: 18 June 2021