National Pesticide Information Center



Pesticides and Children

All pesticides have some level of toxicity, and pose some risk to infants and children. The risk depends on the toxicity of the pesticide ingredients and how much of the pesticide a child is exposed to.

Infants and children are more sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides than adults.

  • An infant's brain, nervous system, and organs are still developing after birth.
  • When exposed, a baby's immature liver and kidneys cannot remove pesticides from the body as well as an adult's liver and kidneys.
  • Infants may also be exposed to more pesticide than adults because they take more breaths per minute and have more skin surface relative to their body weight.
  • Children often spend more time closer to the ground, touching baseboards and lawns where pesticides may have been applied.
  • Children often eat and drink more relative to their body weight than adults, which can lead to a higher dose of pesticide residue per pound of body weight.
  • Babies that crawl on treated carpeting may have a greater potential to dislodge pesticide residue onto their skin or breathe in pesticide-laden dust.
  • Young children are also more likely to put their fingers, toys, and other objects into their mouths.

Because of this, it is important to minimize your child's exposure to pesticides. One way to minimize exposure to pesticides is to take an approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a pest control strategy that uses a combination of methods to prevent and eliminate pests in the most effective and least hazardous manner.

If you choose to use a pesticide, keep these tips in mind to minimize risk to infants and children:

  • Always be sure to read the product label first. The product must be approved for the intended use and applied according to label directions.
  • Seek the least-toxic pesticide option available. Use the signal word to identify products that are low in toxicity.
  • Keep children out of treated areas while pesticides are being applied, and until areas are dry. The product label may have more specific instructions.
  • Allow plenty of time for the pesticide to dry and the home to ventilate before returning.
  • If your lawn or carpeting has recently been treated with pesticides, consider using shoes, blankets or another barrier between the treated surface and children's skin.
  • Be sure children wash their hands before eating, especially after playing outdoors.
  • If you apply pesticides to your pets, be sure to keep children from touching the pet until the product has completely dried.
  • Place ant, snail and rodent baits in locked bait stations or safely out of reach of children.
  • Never use mothballs outside of sealed, airtight containers. Children often mistake mothballs for food when used improperly around the home.
  • Never use illegal pesticides, such as Miraculous, Pretty Baby or Chinese Chalk. It looks and writes like normal chalk, and the pesticide dust can be breathed in, get on kids' hands or end up in their mouths.
  • Be sure to store pesticides in their original containers. Never use food or beverage utensils or containers to mix or store pesticides.
  • Store all pesticides out of the reach of children.
  • If someone in the household works with pesticides, take steps to reduce the amount of pesticide residues they bring into the home. If possible, wash and dry the work clothes separate from family laundry.
  • Call NPIC to learn more about the toxicity of pesticides and ways to minimize exposure.

If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Additional Resources:

Last updated November 6, 2015