Reproductive Health and The Workplace

About Pesticides and Reproductive Health

Key points

  • Exposure to pesticides can affect peoples' hormones and fertility.
  • Pesticide exposure during pregnancy might cause problems like miscarriage and birth defects.
  • Some pesticides might be able to pass into breast milk.
  • Learn more about these chemicals and what you can do to reduce your exposure.
A worker wearing PPE sprays pesticide outside.

Why I should be worried about pesticides

A person wearing PPE sprays pesticide in a kitchen.
Pesticides are used in many workplaces, but also in and around homes.

Pesticides are chemicals used to destroy or control weeds (herbicides), insect pests (insecticides), rodent pests (rodenticides), or fungi (fungicides).

Pesticides are used in many workplaces, but also used in homes, primarily to treat for insects or weeds in the lawn.

Some pesticides have been linked in human studies with problems including:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Reduced fertility
  • Miscarriages
  • Birth defects
  • Learning or developmental disabilities in children

Some pesticides also may pass into breast milk.

Who is exposed to pesticides

Workers who are more likely to be exposed to pesticides include:

  • Farmers and greenhouse workers
  • Veterinarians, veterinary workers, and animal handlers
  • Landscapers
  • Lawn/pest service providers
  • Aircrew members

What I can do to reduce or eliminate my exposure

For all workers:

Carefully read and follow the instructions on the label for any pesticides you use. Avoid entering areas where pesticides have been applied for at least as long as the pesticide label tells you to wait.

Wear protective clothing to avoid contact with pesticides and their residues. Examples include gloves, eye protection, protective clothing, and shoes.

Pesticides can be carried into the home on shoes and clothing. Find tips on reducing take-home exposure, and ask that others in your household do the same.

When applying sprays or fumigants, many pesticides have instructions to use a respirator. Properly used respirators can reduce the amount of certain chemicals that workers breathe in. Talk to your doctor and your employer if you think you might need respiratory protection.

For pregnant and breastfeeding workers

If you are pregnant, talk with your employer to see about potentially avoiding duties with pesticide exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding. We do not know what levels of exposure to pesticides are safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

If you cannot avoid working with pesticides during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, reduce exposure as much as possible. Avoid directly applying pesticides, if possible. Ask someone else to apply the pesticides for you.

If you are pregnant and using a respirator, learn more about respirators and pregnancy.


Getting help

Talk to your supervisor or workplace safety officer about ways to reduce your exposure to pesticides.

For information on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, please see resources from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website.

Talk to your doctor about potential hazards at work. Make sure to mention that your job exposes you to pesticides.

Where I can get more information: