About Pesticides

Pesticides are chemicals applied to kill or control insects, rats and mice, undesirable plants and weeds, or fungi (e.g., mold). Pesticides are often categorized by type of use (e.g., rodenticide, insecticide) or chemical class (e.g., organophosphate, pyrethroid).

Modern pesticides have been developed to have less persistence in the environment than earlier chlorine-based chemicals such as DDT. Pesticides may be applied by a commercial applicator or a non-professional who has purchased a product from a store.

This portal summarizes data about the quantity, types and locations of pesticides that are applied by state-certified pesticide applicators. Using survey data, the portal also reports data on peoples’ personal use of pesticides, and the frequency with which a pest control professional visits homes.

Pesticides and Health

Exposure to pesticides can occur from consuming foods or beverages that contain pesticide residues, from direct contact with the skin or eyes, or from breathing air in areas where pesticides are applied. Health effects from exposure to pesticides vary by chemical class. In general, short-term effects on humans from high levels of exposure include damage to the skin and eyes, difficulty breathing, neurological tremors or seizure and, in extreme cases, loss of consciousness and death. Current research is investigating whether chronic exposure to certain pesticides increases risk of some cancers, reproductive and developmental problems and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

About the Data and Indicators

Earlier years (1999-2002) of commercial pesticide reporting are more likely to contain inconsistencies based on differences in reporting quantities before or after dilution.

Under-reporting of commercial application probably occurs despite the legal reporting requirements.

Liquid and solid forms of the same chemicals are not combined, which prevents presentation of total pesticide applications in some cases.

Data on personal pesticide use and exterminator visits are measured using surveys that depend on the study participants’ accurate recollections and reporting.


To reduce exposure to pesticides, NYC promotes the practice of integrated pest management. Individuals, property owners and managers, co-op and condominium boards should practice and purchase integrated pest management services that include:

  • Inspection for and elimination of sources of food, water and shelter for insects and rodents in your household and building.
  • Repair of cracks and holes to limit the movement of pests in and around your home or building.
  • Use of less toxic products such as boric acid and desiccants, containerized baits, and gels.
  • Though many consumer products are available, people should remember that they are poisons and be careful in choosing and using the safest and most effective products available.
  • Always read and follow instructions on product labels.
  • Avoid the use of sprays, bombs or foggers. Tempo, tres pasitos and cockroach chalk are illegal to sell to consumers, and should never be used.
  • Keep rodenticides away from pets by using containerized bait. Call the Poison Control Center (212-POISONS) if you suspect an exposure.

Key Messages

Since the residential use of the organophosphate pesticides chlorpyrifos and diazinon were prohibited or phased out, beginning in the year 2000, professional applications of these products have declined significantly.

The professional use of “Best Practice” insecticides - those that are effective against pests, but have low toxicity and/or low potential for exposure to humans - have increased since the reporting of commercial pesticide use began in 1997. These include boric acid, desiccant products, and containerized or gel form insecticide baits.

There are significant neighborhood differences in the amounts and types of pesticides used in NYC. The majority of commercial herbicide application in NYC occurs in parks and the far outer boroughs where a greater percentage of residents receive lawn care and landscaping services.The most prominent use of fungicides in NYC is on fragile plant ecosystems such as decorative gardens, golf courses and sports fields.

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