Herbicides are pesticides used to kill weeds. There are several classes in general use that pose a health hazard to humans despite their low acute toxicity in mammals. Toxicity in plants is due to inhibition of photosynthesis, respiration, protein synthesis, or growth stimulation mimicking plant hormones called auxins. Herbicides may be classified as chlorophenoxy, bipyridyl, and urea-substituted compounds. There were 10,379 exposures to herbicides reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 1997.1 Of these, 139 were intentional, with 2820 occurring in children under 6 years of age. About 2300 patients were treated in health care facilities, and 339 exposures resulted in moderate to major morbidity, including 5 deaths.
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