Domestic chemical pest control products are specifically formulated and registered for public use in the home and garden. Although they are generally less toxic than those formulations intended for agricultural or commercial use, domestic pesticides are also potentially hazardous to humans and other organisms if misused, or released into the environment in significant amounts.
The homeowner, who decides to use chemical pest control products, after first attempting non-chemical pest control methods, should learn how to properly select, apply, store and dispose of them, to reduce health and environmental risk. This can be accomplished by following two basic steps:
- Select the proper chemical for the pest to be controlled.
- identify the pest.
- select only a pest control product that is recommended both for the pest and the plant or location affected.
- After deciding on the pesticide formulation and appropriate application method, thoroughly read, understand and follow label directions.
The Pesticide Label
The label is the key to information about any pest control product. It states the facts you must know to use that pest control product safely, as well as, guidelines for safe handling, storage, disposal and environment.
- Trade Name or Company Name - Each company can assign its own name to a product. Pest control products with the same ingredients can have different trade names.
- Use Category - Pest control products used around the home and garden must be labeled Domestic.
- Formulations - Pest control products are available in many different formulations. Choose the formulation suited to your needs.
- Symbol Warning - The symbol warning tells how hazardous the product is
- P.C.P. Act Registration Number - Any pest control product used in Canada must have a Pest Control Product number, indicating that it has been registered by Agriculture Canada.
- Guarantee - The common names of chemicals in the pest control products container are listed under the guarantee. Check the guarantee to be sure you are purchasing the correct product.
- Net contents - The amount of pest control product in the package is listed on the label. Buy quantities that can be used up within a year if possible.
- Manufacturer’s of Formulator’s Name and Address - The manufacturer can be contacted for further information about the pest control product.
- Use Areas - A pest control product should only be used for the location (e.g. trees) and pests listed on the label.
- Precautions - If the precautions are followed, the chance of adverse affects will be reduced.
- First Aid - Labels have immediate first aid information on them.
- Directions for Use - Every label states how much pest control product can be used and how to use it properly. Follow these directions exactly!
- Use Limitations - The Use Limitations state how many days must pass between the time of application and the time the crop is harvested. It is not safe to harvest the crop before the required number of days to harvest has passed.
Of special importance when reading the label is to understand the “symbol warning” and “symbol words” which indicate the relative toxicity of the product. The signal word “danger”, “warning”, “caution” and “poison” as well the “skull and crossbones” symbol represent categories of toxicity. Familiarity with the chemical to be purchased and its health hazard category is of utmost importance in avoiding pesticide poisoning.
Accidental pest control product poisoning usually occurs through the following exposure routes:
- dusts and sprays entering the mouth
- drinking pesticides from unlabelled containers
- using the mouth to start siphoning of liquid concentrates
- transfer of chemicals to mouth from contaminated lips, hands or shirt cuffs.
Through the Skin
- accidental spills on clothing or skin during mixing
- dusts and spray settling on skin
- during mixing
- contact with treated surfaces and plants because of too early re-entry into treated areas
- contact with contaminated application equipment and discarded containers
By Breathing (Inhalation)
- dusts and mists during application
- Smoking during application or contaminated smoking supplies
Mixing and Handling
- mix pest control products outdoors, in a well ventilated area sheltered from the wind. Refer to the label for mixing instructions and information on necessary protective clothing (coveralls, hat, rubber gloves and boots) and equipment (goggles, respirators).
- measure pest control products accurately with a separate set of plastic measuring spoons, cups or containers marked in the appropriate units of measure. Keep these just for pest control products use and label them as such. Never use kitchen utensils for measuring pest control products.
- when calculating mixtures or application rates, the conversion of units of measurement may be necessary.
- when mixing pest control products, avoid inhaling vapors and spilling chemicals on skin or clothing. Wash pest control products off skin promptly with plenty of soap and water and remove contaminated clothing immediately. Soak up spills with disposable absorbent materials (sawdust, kitty litter, soil or rags) and wipe off the outside of the container before handling again. Clean all measuring and mixing equipment after use. Safely discard all contaminated absorbent materials with the household trash.
- to prevent drift, avoid applying pest control products, especially sprays, on windy days. Also, never eat, drink or smoke while applying them. Spot treat target pests directly rather than spreading pesticides over large areas. Do not leave pest control product containers unattended while applying pest control products.
- use separate equipment to apply insecticides and herbicides.
- if label instructions allow, apply pesticides in the evening to avoid harming beneficial and pollinating insects
- after handling pest control products, wash application equipment, protective equipment and yourself thoroughly. Wash contaminated clothing separately from other laundry.
Adhere to the waiting periods (specified on the label) between applications and harvest of fruit and vegetables or making skin contact with herbicide treated lawns.
Storage & Disposal Tips
- avoid stockpiling and storing pest control products by carefully planning your pest control program in advance. Keep records of the previous year’s requirements to help you accurately estimate future needs. Purchase enough pest control product for that year.
- use up small volumes of pest control product or give what is left over to a responsible friend or neighbour in need of the material. Keep the pest control product in its original container when giving it away so that the label information is present.
- to store pest control products, tightly seal them in their original container, and secure them in a locked shed or cabinet, out of the reach and view of children and pets. Do not store them where they could contaminate food, feed, seed or water. Similarly, securely store all pest control product measuring utensils and application equipment.
- examine store pest control product containers regularly for leaks and tears. Dispose of leaking or damaged containers properly (see disposal). Clean up spills immediately and safely with absorbent materials stored nearby. Avoid accidental cross-mixing of different pest control products.
- when purchasing pest control products date the containers. Use oldest older products first.
- pest control products may deteriorate in storage, especially under extreme conditions (high temperatures, humidity and freezing). Caution should be taken when opening and handling stored containers, especially liquids. They may have developed gas as they deteriorated or may have expanded due to freezing over winter.
- improper disposal of unwanted pest control products can create a human health or environmental hazard. The best defense against disposal problems is good planning. Purchase only small quantities of products which can be used up that year.
- NEVER pour pest control products down the drain or outdoor sewers as they will contaminate sewage treatment plants or rivers. Likewise do not dump products into streams, ponds or onto the ground.
- take unwanted pest control products to an official hazardous waste collection site.
- if disposal of a substantial volume of liquid pest control product is necessary, mix it with absorbent materials, preferably in the original container, until the liquid is soaked up. Wrap the sealed container in newspaper and dispose with your household garbage.
- small quantities of pest control products can be disposed by wrapping several layers of newspaper around original container and placing them in regular trash.
- never reuse empty containers