EPA's Report on the Environment (ROE)

Reported Pesticide Incidents

  • Learn more about how to use this interactive exhibit
  • Save the complete indicator as a printer-friendly PDF
  • Download this image
  • Download data for this exhibit

Click the legend to turn layers on or off. Hover your mouse over the display to reveal data.

  • Introduction
    • Although pesticides play a role in protecting human health, food, and crops, they pose a risk of poisoning when not used and/or stored properly. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) collects statistics on poisonings and represents the single largest source of information on acute health effects of pesticides resulting in symptoms and requiring health care (Calvert et al., 2001). The data include incidents related to individual pesticides and to mixtures of products (about 8 percent of reports). The data also include intentional exposures such as suicide attempts and malicious use. The AAPCC uses the National Poison Data System (NPDS), formerly the Toxic Exposure Surveillance System, to collect information on all reported incidents.

      This indicator is based on data from NPDS-published reports for the years 1998 through 2015. During this period, the percent of the U.S. population covered by Poison Control Centers (PCCs) reporting to the national database has risen from 80 percent to 100 percent. Annual reports of incidents were divided by the percent of U.S. population served to estimate the total incidents nationwide, and divided by the total U.S. population to develop the incidence rate. 

  • What the Data Show
    • Between 1998 and 2015, there was an overall 55 percent decline in the rate of reported pesticide incidents in the U.S. (Exhibit 1). Cases involving disinfectants and rodenticides decreased by at least 70 percent. The single largest decline occurred for the category of organophosphate (OP) insecticides, which saw an 87 percent drop in the rate of reported incidents between 1998 and 2015. Part of the decline in reported OP-related incidents may be due to the substitution of other, less toxic insecticides for some of the OPs over time. Reported incidents involving other categories of pesticides also decreased during this time period, including fungicides (64 percent), herbicides (52 percent), and other pesticides, including fumigants and repellents (50 percent).

  • Limitations
      • Incidents may be misclassified when they are reported over the phone but are not verified by laboratory tests. For example, a child found holding a pesticide container may not have actually been exposed, but if a PCC poison specialist receives a call and determines that the reported symptoms are consistent with the toxicology, dose, and timing of the incident, the call is registered as an incident. About 22 percent of calls to PCCs arise from health care facilities, but the majority of calls are from victims or their relatives or caretakers. Although some misclassification can be expected, it is assumed to be non-differential among the different types of pesticides.
      • Only calls with known outcomes are reported in this indicator. This may introduce some bias, as the proportion of all reported pesticide incidents with known outcomes declined from 48 percent in 1998 to 39 percent in 2015.
      • The data collection process is standardized for PCCs, but it is a passive system. Under-reporting of incidents is a serious shortcoming. Studies show that medical facilities generally report between 24 and 33 percent of incidents from all substances to PCCs (Chafee-Bahamon et al., 1983; Harchelroad et al., 1990; Veltri et al., 1987).
      • In 2006, the methodology for identifying exposures and outcomes changed, potentially making comparison of these data with the data in previous AAPCC Annual Reports problematic. The extent to which the changes affect the numbers of exposures and reported outcomes is unclear from the published report, and generally the data do not significantly fluctuate during the 2004–2006 reporting period.
      • Data are collected by multiple PCCs, with follow-up likely performed in different ways.
  • Data Sources
    • This indicator is based on summary data from annual reports published by NPDS, 1998–2015 (AAPCC, 2017) (available from http://www.aapcc.org/annual-reports/). Annual data from these reports are presented and incidence rates were calculated from the population served by participating PCCs; population figures can also be found in the annual reports. Only summary data are publicly available; raw data from individual cases are considered confidential.

This page provides links to non-EPA websites that provide additional information about this topic. You will leave the EPA.gov domain, and EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of information on that non-EPA page. Providing links to a non-EPA website is not an endorsement of the other site or the information it contains by EPA or any of its employees. Also, be aware that the privacy protection provided on the EPA.gov domain (see Privacy and Security Notice) may not be available at the external link. Exit EPA Disclaimer

You will need the free Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

Top of Page