Glossary of Terms  


The chemical name listed is the most common name used for the particular chemical.

Acitivity / Use Type.

The overall term pesticide has several subdivisions indicating the pest that is its chief target and for which it is sold. This does not mean that its effect is limited to one class of pests alone. Many herbicides, for example, are especially toxic to mammals or insects, and some pesticides are so broadly lethal that they are called biocides. (Ref: Basic Guide to Pesticides. Their characteristics and hazards. by SA Briggs and the staff of Rachel Carson Council. 1992. Published by Taylor & Francis.) The main reference for the following definitions is from Pesticide Action Network

Kills spiders and mites (includes miticides)
Used in a formulation to aid in the pesticide application or to improve the effectiveness; can include wetting agents, spreaders, emulsifiers, dispersing and foaming agents, foam suppressants, and penetrants.
Used in paints and other coatings to inhibit growth of algae, barnacles and other shellfish on the hulls of ships.

Biopesticides are certain types of pesticides derived from such natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. For example, canola oil and baking soda have pesticidal applications and are considered biopesticides. At the end of 2001, there were approximately 195 registered biopesticide active ingredients and 780 products. Biopesticides fall into three major classes:

(1) Microbial pesticides consist of a microorganism (e.g., a bacterium, fungus, virus or protozoan) as the active ingredient. Microbial pesticides can control many different kinds of pests, although each separate active ingredient is relatively specific for its target pest[s]. For example, there are fungi that control certain weeds, and other fungi that kill specific insects.
The most widely used microbial pesticides are subspecies and strains of Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Each strain of this bacterium produces a different mix of proteins, and specifically kills one or a few related species of insect larvae. While some Bt's control moth larvae found on plants, other Bt's are specific for larvae of flies and mosquitoes. The target insect species are determined by whether the particular Bt produces a protein that can bind to a larval gut receptor, thereby causing the insect larvae to starve

(2) Plant-Incorporated-Protectants (PIPs) are pesticidal substances that plants produce from genetic material that has been added to the plant. For example, scientists can take the gene for the Bt pesticidal protein, and introduce the gene into the plant's own genetic material. Then the plant, instead of the Bt bacterium, manufactures the substance that destroys the pest. The protein and its genetic material, but not the plant itself, are regulated by EPA.

(3) Biochemical pesticides are naturally occurring substances that control pests by non-toxic mechanisms. Conventional pesticides, by contrast, are generally synthetic materials that directly kill or inactivate the pest. Biochemical pesticides include substances, such as insect sex pheromones, that interfere with mating, as well as various scented plant extracts that attract insect pests to traps. Because it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a substance meets the criteria for classification as a biochemical pesticide, EPA has established a special committee to make such decisions.
(Online as of April 4, 2005)

Breakdown product
The chemical transformation product resulting from metabolism of a pesticide in a biological system or from reaction of a pesticide with oxygen, water, light or other substances in the environment. In the PAN database, known breakdown products are listed as related chemicals for the parent pesticide (see Related Chemicals section at the bottom of the Chemical Infomation page); however, it is important to note that not all pesticide transformation products have been identified. Breakdown products can sometimes be more toxic than the starting pesticide.
Stops reproduction (sterilizes pests)
Exist as gases or produce a gas when they break down in the environment. Fumigants typically kill all living things. Used in agriculture to sterilize soil before planting and to kill pests in stored food or before shipment to other countries. In urban settings, fumigants are used to treat dwellings for termites, ants, and roaches. The target pests for many soil fumigations are nematodes. Most of these pesticides are highly acutely toxic.
Kills fungi
Kills plants

US EPA allows so-called "Inert" ingredients to be commonly mixed with the "active" pesticidal ingredient to create a formulated pesticide product. According to EPA, "The term `inert' is not intended to imply nontoxicity; the ingredient may or may not be chemically active." "Inert" ingredients include solvents, emulsifiers, spreaders, and other substances mixed into pesticide products to increase the effectiveness of the active ingredients, make the product easier to apply, or to allow several active ingredients to mix in one solution. Both US EPA and California Department of Pesticide Regulation require pesticide manufacturers to identify inert ingredients in their products but do not disclose this information to the general public because the pesticide industry considers product formulations trade secrets, protected by law and by the US EPA. The US EPA category of Inerts:
List 1 - Of Toxicological Concern (none in this list)
List 2 - Potentially Toxic / High Priority for Testing (7 in this list)
List 3 - Of Unknown Toxicity (11 in this list)
List 4A - Generally Regarded as Safe (none in this list)
List 4B - EPA states it has Sufficient Information to Reasonably Conclude that the Current Use Pattern in Pesticide Products will not Adversely Affect Public Health or the Environment (1 in this list: Sodium fluoride)
US EPA's Current List of Inerts
1998 US Code of Federal Regulations - identifies specific uses of certain inerts
Inert Ingredients No Longer Used in Pesticide Products, June 24, 1998, Federal Register.
Good report: Toxic Secrets": "Inert" Ingredients in Pesticides 1987-1997, published by Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.
Note: EPA's List 4A & 4B Inerts have been approved for use in the new US National Organic Standards, e.g., Sodium Fluoride.

Kills insects
Kills microbes such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi and used in disinfectant or antibacterial products.
kills nematodes. Nematodes include many families of long, legless, worm-shaped animals including tens of thousands of species worldwide. Some species are aquatic, in freshwater or the sea. Some species are parasites of birds, mammals, or other vertebrate animals. Some species are parasitoids of insects. Others feed on plant roots. Among the many families are steinernematid nematodes.


An acute toxic response that is elicited after the first exposure of skin to certain chemicals and subsequent exposure to light, or that is induced similarly by skin irradiation after the systemic administration of a chemical. - see related definitions.
Kills fish
Plant Growth Regulator
Retards or speeds the growth of plants
Gaseous compounds used in spray formulations of pesticides to create an aerosol mist of the pesticide.
Kills rodents such as rats, mice and gophers.
Herbicide safeners can protect certain crops from herbicide injury by promoting herbicide metabolism. The precise mechanisms of safener action and the reasons for their specificity are attracting much interest but are at present obscure.
Kills termites
Wood preservative
"Preservative" means any chemical used in treating wood to retard or prevent deterioration or destruction caused by the action of insects, fungi, bacteria, or other wood-destroying organisms. Most wood preservatives are highly toxic.

The US Environmental Protection Agency RED (Reregistration Eligibility Decision) documents are the most comprehensive reviews of health and environemntal data that EPA publishes on specific pesticides. EPA has not published RED documents on all pesticides. According to EPA, "Since the passage of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) amendments in 1988, EPA has been conducting a comprehensive review of older pesticides (those initially registered before November 1, 1984) to consider their health and environmental effects and to make decisions about. To be "eligible," a pesticide must have a substantially complete data base and must not cause unreasonable risks to human health or the environment when used in accordance with its approved label directions and precautions. FIFRA as amended in 1996 by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) requires that all pesticides meet new safety standards. EPA must be able to conclude with "reasonable certainty" that "no harm" will come to infants, children, or other sensitive individuals exposed to pesticides. All pesticide exposures -- from food, drinking water, and home and garden use -- must be considered in determining allowable levels of pesticides in food. The cumulative effects of pesticides and other compounds with common mechanisms of toxicity also must be considered. Through the reregistration program, EPA is ensuring that older pesticides meet contemporary health and safety standards and product labeling requirements, and that their risks are mitigated."

Note from EC: The 1996 FQPA fundamentally changed the way EPA regulates pesticides. The FQPA erased concerns of the Delaney anti-cancer clause (in section 409 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act). The FQPA rescued certain pesticides that would have been banned because they violated the Delaney anti-cancer clause. To view the list of pesticides that EPA produced REDs for see

EPA Restricted Use

US EPA publishes a "Restricted Use Product File." Explanations are given for the reasons EPA has placed restrictions on the use of each of the chemicals in this list. Check out the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs website for updates at:

Organophosphate (OP) 

The term is generally undestood to mean an organic derivative of phosphoric or similar acids. Many OPs inhibit an enzyme known as acetylcholinesterase, but not all OPs (e.g. glyphosate) demonstrate this effect. Some OPs react with other proteins such as neuropathy target esterase. Inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase affect certain nerve junctions in animals, as well as parasympathetic effector sites (the heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, urinary bladder, prostate, eyes and salivary glands). The transmission of impulses across nerve junctions involves the release of a transmitter chemical, which, in the case of many nerves, is acetylcholine. To stop the nerve continuing to transmit the message, the transmitter, acetylcholine, must be broken down immediately after it has had its effect. This breakdown is brought about by an enzyme, acetylcholinesterase. By inhibiting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, OPs prevent the nerve junction from functioning properly. In humans, anticholinesterase OPs have broadly similar actions to those seen in other species. Acetylcholinesterase inhibition causes acute effects in humans and other mammals. The symptoms in humans, which generally occur when acetylcholinesterase activity has been reduced by about 50%, may include: headache, exhaustion and mental confusion together with blurred vision, sweating, salivation, chest tightness, muscle twitching and abdominal cramps. The severity of the effects depends on the degree of acetylcholinesterase inhibition. For more detailed explanation see: Organophosphate definition


In order to identify a "most toxic" set of pesticides, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and Californians for Pesticide Reform created the term PAN Bad Actor pesticides. These pesticides are at least one of the following: Known or probable carcinogen, as designated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), US EPA, US National Toxicology Program, and the state of California's Proposition 65 list. Reproductive or developmental toxicants, as designated by the state of California's Proposition 65 list. Neurotoxic cholinesterase inhibitors, as designated by California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the Materials Safety Data Sheet for the particular chemical, or PAN staff evaluation of chemical structure (for organophosphorus compounds). Known groundwater contaminants, as designated by the state of California (for actively registered pesticides) or from historic groundwater monitoring records (for banned pesticides). Pesticides with high acute toxicity, as designated by the World Health Organization (WHO), the US EPA, or the US National Toxicology Program. Ref:

PAN Data

Pesticide Action Network database for all pesticides.


As a result of a citizens initiative called Proposition 65, the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 requires that the Governor revise and republish at least once per year the list of chemicals known to the State that cause cancer or reproductive toxicity, which include: Developmental Toxicity - adverse effects on the developing organism that may result from exposure prior to conception (either parent), during prenatal development, or postnatally to the time of sexual maturation. Adverse developmental effects may be detected at any point in the lifespan of the organism. The major manifestations of developmental toxicity include: (1) death of the developing organism, (2) structural abnormality, (3) altered growth, and (4) functional deficiency. The California Prop 65 definition (almost the same) is: 'Developmental toxicity' is defined to include adverse effects on the products of conception (i.e., the conceptus), including but not limited to: Postnatal parameters including growth and development, physiological deficits and delay, neurological, neurobehavioral and psychological deficits, altered sex ratio, abnormal sexual development or function, or morbidty or mortality. Reproductive Toxicity - the hazard to three populations, the male, the female and the conceptus, each of which has distinct differences in toxic response and susceptibility. The conceptus is at risk from long before birth, and the risk persists long after birth (some chemicals harm only female and others only male, i.e., sperm motility, morphology).


The Pesticide National Synthesis Project is part of the U. S. Geological Survey's National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA). The program began in 1991 with the purpose of producing a long-term assessment of the status of and trends in the quality of the Nation's water resources. Pesticides are one of the highest-priority issues for the NAWQA. The pesticide use maps show regional scale patterns in use intensity within the United States and are not intended for making local-scale estimates of use, such as for individual counties. The maps are based on state-level estimates of pesticide use rates for individual crops, which have been compiled by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy for 1991-1993 and 1995, and on county-based crop acreage data obtained from the 1992 Census of Agriculture. Key limitations include: (1) state use coefficients represent an average for the entire state and consequently do not reflect the local variability pesticide management practices found within many states and counties, and (2) the county-level acreage data used to calculate use are based on the 1992 Census of Agriculture and may not represent all crop acreage due to Census non-disclosure rules. - The full list of pesticide maps are at:

(World Health Organization)

believed obsolete or discontinued. From the WHO Recommended Classification of Pesticides by Hazard and Guidelines to Classification 2000-2002. Table 6. Active ingredients not included in the Classification and believed to be obsolete or discontinued for use as pesticides, p 37. Published by IOMC (Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Managment of Chemicals, comprised of United Nationals Environment Programme, International Labour Organization, and WHO).

WHO: Extremely Hazardous (Class 1a). From the above publication. Table 1. EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS (Class Ia) active ingredients (technical grade) of pesticides, p 16.

WHO: Highly Hazardous (Class 1b). From the above publication. Table 2. HIGHLY HAZARDOUS (Class Ib) active ingredients (technical grade) of pesticides, p 18.

Adverse Health Effects

Effects noted from animal studies. Data collection for this section is currently underway.

CAS No. 

The Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) Registry Number is a unique identifier assigned to each chemical and to some mixtures of chemicals by the Chemical Abstracts Service, a division of the American Chemical Society. This number is used worldwide. There are three ways to list a CAS No. Using Sodium fluoride as the example:
7681-49-4 (the most common way),
7681494 (without dashes), or
007681494 (placing zeros in front to adjust to a nine digit number).

Molecular Formula. 

Chemical formula for compound. Main source:

Entry Year.

Main source of information:; or

Inventing Company.

Main source of information:; or

US EPA (FIFRA) Pemit Date and Registrant.

Year Registered in US under FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act) and name of Registrant. A major source of this information from US EPA report, Chemicals Registered for the First Time as Pesticidal Active Ingredients under FIFRA, Office of Pesticide Programs, Economic Analysis Branch, Biological and Economic Analysis Division. December 1994.


The companies that make the pesticides.

Trade & Other Names.

The most prominent registered trademark(s), generic / common name(s) and code number(s).
Also US EPA's Experimental Use Permits (EUP). According to the Environmental Working Group, EUP's, which come under Section 18: "The Section 18 program is a fraud that has mushroomed far beyond the legitimate need to help farmers control emergency pest infestations. The program has little to do with real pest emergencies and has become a test marketing program for pesticide companies through which they avoid the full children’s health requirements of FQPA. Children bear the risk of the untested pesticides, while pesticide companies reap the profits. Nothing better illustrates the phony essence of the program than the surge in emergency and crisis exemptions granted for control of weeds." Ref: See Chlorfenapyr at:

Manufacture Sites.

Pesticide manufactured at this location.

US EPA Registered. 

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list of active pesticides. We include Inerts as active ingredients. See above for an explanation of what an "Inert" is.

The US EPA PC Code.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assigns a unique chemical code number to a particular pesticide active ingredient or mixture of active ingredients. The US EPA PC (Pesticide Chemical) Code is sometimes referred to as the Shaugnessy Number. The US EPA PC code is included in the US EPA pesticide product data. Reference: US EPA Pesticide Product Information System

CA Chem. Code.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation assigns a unique chemical code number to serve as an identifier for a particular pesticide active ingredient or mixture of active ingredients.


as used by US FDA (Food and Drug Administration), to report analytical results. Glossary of Pesticide Chemials, October 2001. A listing of pesticides subject to analysis of residues in foods and feeds by the FDA. Also available at:

US CFR Tolerances

US FDA's references to the Code of Federal Regulations (1999) 40 CFR 180 and 40 CFR 185-86; also FDA's notes on temporary, pending,or revoked tolerances and indicates use in other countries (“foreign use ”). Code of Federal Regulations (1999) Title 40, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, Parts 180, 185, and 186. See:
EPA search site for pesticide residue limits on food
U.S. Residue Limits for Pesticides in Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products
US FDA's Glossary of Pesticide Chemials, October 2001.
Permanent Tolerances updated at

Registered in these Countries.

We present only a very limited list of countries that use these pesticides.

Pesticide residue tolerances

Maximum Residue Levels - Amount of pesticide allowed "in or on" a food commodity.
US References:
US EPA Office of Pesticide Programs: What the pesticide residues are on food.
As of December 31, 1999: U.S. residue limits for pesticides in meat, poultry, and egg products


Fluoride Action Network | Pesticide Project | 315-379-9200 |