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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

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Updated on 22/09/2016

What are pesticides?

Definition and uses

Keywords : Pesticides

The term “pesticides” commonly refers to products used in agriculture for crop treatment. However, this term also refers to many other uses, some of which are part of everyday life. Learn about all the possible uses of pesticides and our recommendations for their proper use in the home.

The term “pesticides” is often thought of as being associated with agriculture, to combat weeds or protect crops against insects and mould. However, in reality, this term includes different types of products used for a wide variety of purposes in a professional setting – maintenance of roads, airports and railway tracks, upkeep of parks, public gardens and cemeteries; rat or insect control – or in the everyday environment – combating insects in the home, weeding paths, protecting garden plants, combating parasites in pets such as fleas or ticks, etc. The following animation is intended to illustrate some of these domestic uses.

Multiple routes of exposure

Owing to this common confusion between pesticides and plant protection products, it is often thought that exposure to pesticides is largely a result of their presence in foodstuffs or drinking water. However, there are many routes of exposure to these products. They are found in all compartments of the environment and domestic use contributes to overall exposure to these products.

While agriculture consumes a large portion of pesticides sold each year in France, non-agricultural uses also contribute to the pollution of surface waters by these products.

Pesticides are not innocuous products and should be used with caution and moderation! Recommendations and precautions for use that appear on packaging must be strictly followed. They help to ensure the safety of consumers, users and workers as well as protection of the environment.