Standard Article

Toxicology of Pesticides

Toxicology of Specific Groups of Substances

  1. Ian C. Dewhurst BSc, PhD Principal Scientist1,
  2. Timothy C. Marrs OBE, MD, DSc, FRCP, FRCPath, FBTS, FATS2,3,4

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470744307.gat140

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

How to Cite

Dewhurst, I. C. and Marrs, T. C. 2009. Toxicology of Pesticides. General, Applied and Systems Toxicology. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    (Mammalian Toxicology), Pesticides Safety Directorate, York, UK

  2. 2

    Edentox Associates, Pinehurst, Kent, UK

  3. 3

    City Hospital, National Poisons Information Service (Birmingham Centre) and West Midlands Poisons Unit, Birmingham, UK

  4. 4

    University of Central Lancashire, Lancashire School of Health and Postgraduate Medicine, Preston, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


Pesticides are a group of substances with heterogeneous toxicity, whose desired activity is the killing of unwanted living organisms. The main groups are insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and rodenticides. Many, but not all, pesticides have mammalian toxicity that is related to their toxicity to the target organism. To be weighed against their mammalian toxicity are the facts that insects and fungi are important sources of agricultural loss and give rise to much damage to buildings, where construction is often of wood. Furthermore, many insects carry diseases such as malaria and sleeping sickness, which in the absence of control measures may render land uninhabitable or agriculturally unusable. The key to a successful pesticide is selective toxicity and some of the more modern pesticides have actions that are target-organism specific. In recent years, there has been some concern as to the possibility of deleterious effects from multiple pesticides exposure, either as residues in food or at the workplace. Another recent development is the use of microbial pest control agents: these are plant-protection products that have a micro-organism, that is, a bacterium, fungus, virus, protozoan, microscopic nematode or microsporidium, as the active material.


  • pesticides;
  • insecticides;
  • fungicides;
  • biological pesticides;
  • herbicides;
  • rodenticides;
  • acetylcholinesterase;
  • human data