Hazard, risk, human health and pesticides
Please note these defintions relate to the issues discussed in this section on pesticides and human health
Excretion: the elimination of waste products from the body. In mammals types of excretion are via the kidneys in urine; via the lungs in air (carbon dioxide); biliary excretion which is via the bile and ultimately the faeces; mucociliary excretion which is via the mucous from the respiratory tract (ie, blowing the nose); and perspiration via the skin.
Hazard: a situation that under certain circumstances has the potential to do harm. Potential harm may be a threat to life, health, property or the environment. Most hazards are dormant or potential, with only a theoretical risk to do harm. However an active hazard can create a serious or emergency situation. There are many ways of classifying hazards, but in respect to pesticides, physical hazards and health hazards are particularly relevant.
Metabolism: a set of chemical reactions that occur in living organisms in order to maintain life, including both breaking down food to provide nutrients and breaking down poisons or toxins to remove them from the body.
Mg/kg bw: is the abbreviation for milligram per kilogram bodyweight, and means the quantity of the dose administered in milligrams, divided by the weight of the individual or animal in kilograms. This allows for direct comparison of results of different tests which involve animals or people of different body sizes and weights.
NOAEL: No Observed Adverse Effect Level: in a toxicological study, the dose level below which no undesired toxic effects are seen or measured. The observed effects are compared statistically to those of non-treated controls in the same test.
NOEL: No Observed Effect Level: in a toxicological study, the dose level below which no effects at all are seen or measured, compared statistically to non-treated controls in the same test.
Physical properties: properties that do not change the chemical nature of matter. Examples are boiling point, melting point, colour, smell, density, opacity, viscosity, magnetic attraction or repulsion, physical state (solid, liquid or gas).
Pictograms: diagrams included on labels to show hazards of a pesticide without the use of words. The FAO has published a set of standard pictograms which are used in many countries. www.fao.org/ag/AGP/AGPP/Pesticid/Code/Download/label.doc (downloads Word document).
Reference dose: the maximum acceptable oral dose of a toxic substance (USEPA). http://www.epa.gov/iris/rfd.htm
Risk management: following risk identification and assessment, risk management is the coordinated and economical application of resources or processes to minimise, monitor or control the probability and/or impact of unwanted events.
Safety margin: a number, factor or allowance to ensure safety. For pesticides it is an additional margin between the NOAEL and the measured exposure level for a particular use situation and a particular pesticide. A common safety margin is 100.
Surveillance: in relation to pesticide use, ongoing observation or monitoring of people potentially exposed to pesticides to determine real level of exposure.
Susceptibility: how sensitive an individual is to a particular hazard situation compared to other individuals. How much an individual would suffer if exposed to a particular substance, compared to others.
Toxicology: The study of adverse effects of substances on living organisms.
Hazard, risk, human health and pesticides | Basic principles of toxicology | Assessing the risk to human health | Glossary - human health section