Image of a Box of Pesticides

Pesticides are an easy and effective way to rid your lawn and home of pests. In fact they are so effective that, according to the EPA, 76 million pounds of active ingredient were used in 1997! However, many homeowners and consumers are not well informed about pesticides and their uses, therefore the potential for misuse is greater among them.

The quality of water resources can become unhealthy as a result of improper, excessive, and unnecessary use of yard chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers. Since so many people use pesticides, it is important to make sure that they are being used correctly.

  1. Identifying a pesticide
    Some examples of pesticides are:
    • Herbicides: crabgrass control, weed and feed products
    • Rodenticides: mouse baits
    • Fungicides: fungus control
    • Disinfectants: toilet bowl/pool cleaners
    • Insecticides: flea collars, bee and wasp sprays
    A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances that is used to destroy, repel, or mitigate any pest AND any substance or mixture of substances used as a plant growth regulator. Many homeowner pesticides do not contain the word “pesticide”. Recognizing the following information on the label will let you know that you are using a pesticide:
    EPA Registration Number: this is the number the Environmental Protection Agency has assigned to the product. This lets you know that you are using a pesticide. Every pesticide has an EPA registration number. For example EPA registration number 524-445 is Roundup Herbicide.
    Signal Words: Caution (slightly toxic), Warning (moderately toxic), Danger (highly toxic).
    Pesticidal Claims: if a product claims to kill or control a pest, it is most likely a pesticide.
    Violation of Law Statement: This is on every label. It is a violation of the law to not follow the label directions
  2. Reducing the risks from using pesticides
    You must always keep in mind that pesticides are intended to be toxic to the target pest. They are not “safe.”
    Always read and follow the label. The label contains the directions for use including application site and rate, storage and disposal practices, active ingredients, protective equipment needs, the types of pests controlled and the signal words: “Caution”, “Warning” or “Danger.” Failure to follow the label directions can result in harm to the environment, water, children, animals and yourself. However, if used properly and according to the label, you can reduce the risk. To further reduce risks from pesticide use:
    • Only buy what you need. Read the label to ensure the product you are buying will be effective on the pest.
    • When transporting pesticides place and secure your product(s) outside of the passenger area of the vehicle (such as trunk or truck bed).
    • When applying pesticides, follow the directions! Only use what you need, more is not better! Be aware of environmentally sensitive areas and areas that are accessible to children and animals
    • Protect yourself. When using pesticides, at a minimum, gloves (rubber, nitrile or neoprene) and long sleeve shirts should be worn. Rubber boots, a hat, goggles and a face mask, respirator or face shield are also recommended.
    • Store in areas inaccessible to children, pets or vandals. Storing outside of the house (such as in a shed or garage) is preferable. Keep pesticides locked up and away from children. Keep the pesticide in its original container
    • Never pour pesticides down the drain. Do not reuse the container. Dispose of at household hazardous waste events or at a waste facility.
  3. Storing pesticides
    Safety is the key element in pesticide storage. The safest approach to any pesticide problem is to limit the amounts and types of pesticide stored. All pesticides should always be stored in their original containers, according to label requirements, with the label intact. A good practice is to store the pesticides on leak proof trays or in plastic basins to prevent any leaks. Pesticides should be stored in a locked, area that is inaccessible to children, pets and vandals. If you have the space, store the pesticides outside of your home in a garage or a shed.
    For storage of small quantities, wooden cabinets with a chemically resistant surface coating or metal cabinets work well. The cabinets should, ideally, be located in an area away from direct sunlight, freezing temperatures and extreme heat.
    Pesticides and fertilizers should be stored separately. Pesticides should never be stored alongside food, feed or seed. The storage area should be locked at all times, if possible, and identified as a place of pesticide storage.
  4. Dealing with a spill
    If a spillage occurs, the contaminated area should not be hosed down. This will cause the pesticide to spread and infiltrate into groundwater. Absorbent material such as vermiculite, clay, pet litter or activated charcoal should be on hand along with a garbage can and shovel to quickly contain and clean up any spills.
  5. Disposing of unwanted pesticides
    If you have not used the pesticide in a year, discard it using a proper disposal method. Dispose of pesticides only at local or state run hazardous waste collection events. Pesticides should never be disposed of by placing them in the trash (labels that direct you to do this are misguided). Pesticides should never be poured down a storm drain. Contact your local Board of Health or Conservation Commission or check your local newspaper to find out when collection events will take place.