Minimizing Pesticide Risks

  • Because "the dose makes the poison," someone may get sick from exposure to just about anything if their exposure is high enough. The risk of experiencing health problems from a pesticide depends on the toxicity of the pesticide and the amount of exposure. Even very low toxicity pesticides can be hazardous if too much is inhaled, gets on the skin, or is ingested. Minimizing the amount of pesticide used, selecting lower toxicity products and using protective equipment to minimize your exposure can all help to minimize the hazards associated with using pesticides.

  • Tips for Minimizing Pesticide Risks:

  • Consider adopting an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. This approach emphasizes prevention, sanitation and exclusion, and utilizes pesticides only as a last resort when other options have failed.

  • Review the product signal word and active ingredients, and then choose the product lowest in toxicity. Call NPIC for help comparing products.

  • Choose products with formulations least likely to lead to exposure.

  • Read the product label first. The pesticide label will list the minimum amount of protective equipment, like gloves or goggles, necessary to reduce your exposure.

  • Consider using additional protective equipment to decrease your exposure even further.

  • Make sure the pesticide label lists the specific place you intend to use the product. Using a pesticide in unlisted locations is illegal and unsafe.

  • Use the appropriate amount of pesticide for your job by following the label directions closely. Applying too much pesticide may lead to higher levels of exposure to people, pets and the environment.

  • Avoid allowing children, pets, or sensitive people in treatment areas to prevent accidental exposures during pesticide applications.

  • Consider staying out of treated areas after an application for the amount of time listed on the label directions.

  • For liquid products, consider avoiding treated areas until they have dried thoroughly and the area has been ventilated.

  • Consider keeping pets and children off treated lawns and gardens until granular pesticides have dissolved.

  • Ensure items such as food, toys, pet bowls and clothing are stored a safe distance away from any pesticide treatment.

  • Remember disinfectants are pesticides, too! Always read and follow the label, even with products you've used before.

Reading Pesticide Labels

Why is it important to read pesticide labels before using pesticides?

  • Pesticide labels contain detailed information on how to use the product correctly and legally. Labels also contain information on potential hazards associated with the product and instructions you should follow in the event of a poisoning or spill. Following label instructions will allow you to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits.

  • Always read the label carefully before you buy a product and make sure the product is intended for your specific use.

  • Use the appropriate amount of pesticide for your job. Applying more pesticide than the label directions indicate can waste money and may harm people, pets or the environment. It may even be less effective at controlling the pest.

  • Do not assume a pesticide purchased for one type of treatment can be used in another setting without first checking the label; many pesticides have similar names and ingredients despite being intended for very different uses.

  • Buy only what you need. Storing and disposing of leftover pesticides can lead to unnecessary risks. Review the storage and disposal section of the label for information on how the product should be stored and disposed of, including the empty container.

  • Re-read the label before using or re-using a pesticide, don't rely on your memory.

  • Do not use pesticides in any manner other than those specifically listed on the label; it is against the law.

  • Never remove a pesticide label from the container, or use unlabeled pesticides.

  • Store all pesticides safely out of reach of children and pets.

Pesticide labels answer the following questions:

  • Ingredients: What's in the product?

  • Signal word: How toxic is the product?

  • Precautionary statements: How can the product be used safely?

  • First aid information: What should I do if it gets in my eyes, mouth, lungs or on my skin?

  • Environmental hazards: What special restrictions are placed on this product to protect the environment?

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): What should I wear? Should I use gloves when I use this product?

  • Directions for use: How and where should I use the product? How much is okay?

  • Storage and disposal: How does the product have to be stored? What should I do with leftovers that I don't need?

  • Manufacturer's contact information: How can I get in touch with the company?

  • Phone number: Where can I get more information about this product?

  • EPA Registration number: What is the unique product number?

Storage of Pesticides

Proper pesticide storage is important to:

protect peopleanimals, and the pesticide itself. Keep these tips in mind when storing pesticides:

The Container Matters

  • Pesticides should be stored in their original containers. The original container is designed to protect the product and it's made of materials that will withstand the chemicals in the product.

  • Store containers with their original labeling which includes application and disposal directions, ingredient names and emergency information.

  • The original container also has the appropriate lid/cap to protect kids and pets.

Temperature Matters

  • Extremes in temperature can change the chemistry of some pesticides inside the container.

  • Extremes in temperature can also damage containers.

  • Always read the label for storage instructions. As a general rule, pesticides are best stored between 40-90 °F.

Location Matters

Safety Matters

  • Try to keep your pesticide inventory as low as possible. Buy only what you need this season; mix only what you need today.

  • Dispose of unwanted pesticides properly rather than storing them.

  • Never store pesticides in food or drink containers.

  • Consider storing bottles inside a larger container that could contain liquids in the event of a leak or spill.

Disposal of Pesticides



Disposal of Pesticides

Pesticides need to be disposed of properly to prevent accidents and to protect the environment. If you have unwanted pesticide products, store them safeland dispose of them as soon as you can.

  • Dispose of pesticides as instructed on the product label. Look for the "Storage and Disposal" statement on your pesticide label.

  • If any product remains in the container it must be disposed of as household hazardous waste.

  • To find out where to take your unwanted pesticides, you can contact your local household hazardous waste, call , or talk to your state's environmental agency. Remember! State and local laws can be more strict than federal requirements.

  • After emptying a pesticide container rinse it properly for disposal or recycling. Never reuse a pesticide container for any purpose!

  • Be sure to wear protective clothing when rinsing pesticide containers, such as chemical resistant gloves and eye protection.

  • Apply rinse water according to label directions; only where the pesticide was intended to be used.

  • Do not pour rinse water into any drain or on any site not listed on the product label; it could contaminate the environment.

  • If you mixed or diluted a pesticide and you have a little too much left over, try to use it up while following the label. Consider asking a neighbor if they can use any leftover mixtures.

Keep these tips in mind:

Tips for transporting pesticides for disposal:

  • Keep the pesticides in their original containers with the labels attached.

  • Place containers so they won't shift and/or spill.

  • Line the transport area in your vehicle or place pesticides in a plastic bin to contain any spills in case of an accident.

  • If pesticides are carried in the back of an open vehicle, secure and cover the load.

  • Don't put pesticides in the passenger compartment of a vehicle.

  • Keep pesticides away from groceries, including food for animals.

  • Go straight to the collection site once you have loaded your vehicle. Drive carefully!