Safety

Health and Safety

Important – You must remember that most pesticides are poisons. They are designed to be lethal to pests while causing as little damage as possible to mammals and other plants however in high enough doses and if used incorrectly then can be hazardous to individuals and the environment.

The most important factors to consider when using pesticides safely is to select the correct product, know how it’s used and how to store it correctly. If you are ever in doubt then the label should have all of the information that you need.

Precautions

– Storage and Transport: Pesticides must be stored in a place that cannot be reached by unauthorized personnel or children. They must also be placed somewhere that they cannot be mistaken for edibles and out of direct sunlight. Do not transport them along with food.

– The label: Labels carry important information about the particular pesticide as well as its hazards. All labels must follow WHO specifications for dosage and what to do if it is accidentally spilled on skin or ingested. So that the label is always nearby, do not store the pesticide anywhere other than in its original packaging.

– Disposal: Pesticides are hazardous materials and must be disposed of as such. You cannot simply pour them down the drain or put them in the bin. Pouring them down the drain makes them likely to find their way into the water table or local ponds where they will wreak havoc on local flora and fauna. Pyrethroid insecticides are particularly deadly to fish. A good way to dispose of liquid pesticides is to put them in a pit latrine while solid pesticides should be buried in a hole that you can close as soon as possible.

Health and Safety Laws for Pesticides

Pesticide laws exist to protect humans and the environment from the harmful effects of pesticides. The laws that govern pesticide use are complex and vary according to particular pesticides.

In the United States, the FDA is responsible for regulating pesticide use. FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) authorizes certain pesticides to be sold and used in the United States. Allowing certain pesticides to be used is based on the potential threat that they pose to humans and the environment when used according to the directions on the label. FIFRA allows pesticides to be used;

  • By any method not expressly prohibited on the label
  • At doses lower than what is suggested on the label, never higher
  • On any areas or targets that are not expressly prohibited on the label
  • As a mixture with other pesticides or fertilizers as long as they are not prohibited on the label

Anybody who uses pesticides not approved by FIFRA or uses the pesticide against the label’s instructions will face criminal punishments.

Toxicity

Just about any pesticide can be lethal to humans if they are exposed to a high enough dose. Toxicity is a measure of how large a dose of a particular substance must be to make you ill. Highly toxic substances require small doses to make you ill.

When running a risk analysis on the health risk for exposure to a particular pesticide, public health experts use the formula Risk = Toxicity x Exposure where:

  • Risk is how likely harm is to occur under normal use
  • Exposure is how the person came into contact with the pesticide and for how long
  • Toxicity is what dosage is required to cause a person harm.

Low levels of exposure to pesticides are not harmful however it is wise to reduce your chances of exposure as much as possible. Popular ways of reducing exposure are:

  • The provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves and overalls to employees who work with pesticides often
  • Using the equipment correctly
  • Preparing for emergencies by having a medical kits and clean-up supplies readily available.

The best way to protect yourself and the environment while using pesticides is to implement an Integrated Pest Management Plan. IPMs bring together all of your pest management tactics into one program so that you always know which pesticide is being used where and how to store and dispose of them appropriately. A good IPM will guide you through your pesticide use from start to finish.