The publications in this collection do not reflect current scientific knowledge or recommendations. These texts represent the historic publishing record of the Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences and should be used only to trace the historic work of the Institute and its staff. Current WAS research may be found on the Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS)
site maintained by the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University of Florida
William J. Becker and Harvey L Cromroy
The safe use of pesticides should be a concern of every home gardener. Safety involves a combination of knowledge, common sense, and the ability to follow directions. Any misuse of pesticides could result in poisoning of the gardener, family members, neighbors, pets, or consumers of the produce.
Is a Pesticide Really Needed?
There are many practices which a home gardener can follow to reduce the need for pesticides. Here are some of them: 0- Locate the garden on well-drained soil, away from shade, where there is good air movement.
0- Keep garden and surrounding area free of weeds and old plant material that might harbor insects and disease.
0- Develop a 3-4 year rotation for the garden so that the same area does not have the same plants year after year.
IN- When available, purchase plant or vegetable varieties which are resistant to disease. nematodes, and insects.
0- Use mechanical means of pest control., that is, cultivate to
control weeds, pick off insects, and destroy diseased plants. 0- Use biological controls when available, for example, Bacillus thuringienis for moth and butterfly larvae.
William J. Becker is Associate Professor- Extension Safety Specialist, Agricultural Engineering Department, and Harvey L. Cromroy is Professor, Entomology and Nematology Department, IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
Before applying any pesticide, several questions should be answered: What pests or pest problems exist in the garden? Is the problem a disease, insect, nematode, or weed? Is the problem serious enough to warrant pesticide treatment? Can the problem be corrected with a pesticide? What is the safest pesticide to use? When and how should it be applied? Many home gardeners do not know the answers to these questions; therefore, they use too many pesticides or the wrong pesticides applied at the wrong time, in the wrong way, and in incorrect amounts. This hit-or-miss method of using pesticides can do more harm than good. It can endanger the environment by killing beneficial insects, poison wildlife, and contaminate the soil, water, and air. The hit-or-miss method can also result in the poisoning of people.
A home gardener can obtain the answers to the questions that should be asked by contacting the county's Cooperative Extension Service or a reputable garden center. A sample of the suspected pest, a sample of the damage done by the pest, or an accurate description of the damage caused will be necessary to obtain an accurate identification. Only then can the appropriate treatment be recommended.
When a decision is made that pesticides should be used, price should not be a major consideration. More important considerations are safety, ease of application, and the effectiveness of the product.
Pesticide labels have signal words to inform the user of their "toxicity" or "poisonousness." lo- DANGER - POISON (The words are in red and usually accompanied by a skull and crossbones symbol.) - These
are the most toxic pesticides. Handle with extreme care. lo- WARNING - These are moderately toxic materials, but they should still be handled i ith care and respect.
0- CAUTION - These are slightly toxic materials that are still poisonous and should be handled accordingly.
Whenever two or more recommended pesticides are available to control a pest problem, the least toxic material should be used. Pesticides labeled CAUTION are much safer to use than those labeled WARNING or DANGER - POISON. A second consideration should be the ease with which the pesticide can be applied safely. Pesticides can be purchased in the following forms:
Gas, Vapor or Mist - In this form, pesticides are marketed in aerosol cans. This makes them easy to use, but expensive. 0- Granules - Pesticides in this form are normally processed into particles that run from the size of fine sand to the size of rice kernels. This form is normally incorporated into the soil to control soil insects, nematodes, diseases, and germinating weeds.
0- Wettable or Soluble Powders - These forms of pesticides are mixed with water and then applied.
0- Emulsifiable Concentrates (Liquids) - These pesticides are dissolved or suspended in oil bases, water, or other liquids. 0- Dust - This powdery form of pesticide is applied with a dust applicator or shaken on the plant from a container that
looks like a large saltshaker.
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Most pesticides can be purchased in more than one form. Normally, wettable powders or liquids are recommended for home gardeners. Most pesticides are available in these forms, and a small sprayer can then be used for application. Wettable powders or liquids are as safe as pesticides in other forms and are normally the most economical. The final - and the least significant - factor to consider is the cost of the material. Effectiveness, safety, and ease of application are far more important considerations. Pesticides frequently are available in different concentrations. A formulation with 10 percent active ingredient has twice the concentration as one containing 5 percent active ingredient. So it should be worth twice as much. To determine value, a gardener must look at both concentration and quantity of active ingredient to get the best buy. A frequent error that home gardeners make is to purchase too much product. Do not purchase more than you will use in one season. Some pesticide products deteriorate with time. Moreover, excess products create safety problems in storage and disposal.
Before purchasing any pesticide, know what you need. Read the labets. Will the product do what you want it to do? Is it the safest product to apply? These should be your major considerations.
When a pesticide has been purchased, handle it with care to prevent accidental spills. Never transport a pesticide with food products or in the passenger area of your car.
Pesticides should be stored in a dry, well-ventilated location and securely locked away to prevent children, unauthorized adults, pets, and livestock from accidentally coming in contact with the materials. Only adults experienced in using pesticides should have access to this area. A secure wood or metal cabinet or closet will serve the purpose. Other toxic household chemicals, sprayers, dusters, fertilizer, and other garden equipment could also be stored in this area. But do not store personal protective equipment or food products in this area. They could become contaminated.
Always store pesticides in their original containers - never in unmarked containers or containers which have held food or drink. When shelving pesticides, always shelve dry products above liquid products. Clean up any spills immediately. Vermiculite, oil absorbents, even "kitty litter" are good materials to soak up liquid spills. Bury these materials in a 6-to-8-inch deep trench away from plants. Dig a trench long enough so that the material is not all in a concentrated area. Finally, follow all directions on the pesticide label for storage and handling of spills.
Personal Protective Equipment
Always read the label to determine the personal protective equipment required when working with a particular pesticide. Then wear itl If the label has no information on protective equipment, common sense must be your guide. You will want to keep the materials off your skin and out of your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Items like waterproof gloves, hats, and footwear may be required. Do not use leather products, since they tend to absorb and retain pesticides. Check your hatband: it should be made of cloth or plastic. Other protective equipment might include goggles or a face shield and a respirator approved by NIOSH, along with the proper clean filter pads or cartridges. NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety) is a governmental agency which tests and approves protective
Cloth cap or hat
Rubber or plastic gloves or gauntlets Rubber or plastic apron
equipment. Look for safety equipment approved by NIOSH and read the labels to make sure the equipment is specifically approved for the intended use. Your clothing should include longsleeved shirts and trousers. Disposable clothing for application of pesticides is also available. Check with your garden center or safety supply store for these products. Sleeves should be worn over gloves, trousers over footwear. After each pesticide application, use warm, soapy water and wash the goggles, face shield, respirator (but not the filter pads or cartridges), and other waterproof equipment. Then rinse in clear water. Air-dry these items and store them away from pesticides.
All washable clothing should be washed immediately in hot water, using a strong detergent. Thoroughly rinse the clean clothing and air-dry. Do not wash other clothing with the clothing worn while applying pesticides. One more important practice: Immediately after removing and cleaning personal protective equipment and placing the clothing in a washer, take a hot shower. Use plenty of soap and wash your hair. Don't wait until after you have finished your other garden or lawn workl
Remember, always read the pesticide label and understand it. The pesticide used should be the safest product for the pest problem, and the proper personal protective equipment should be worn. Now inspect your sprayer, duster, or spreader. See that it is functioning properly. There should be no loose or leaking hoses and connections. The cover gasket on a sprayer must fit securely.
For home garden spraying, a 1-3 gallon, hand-carried sprayer is recommended. Partially fill the sprayer with water and test it to make sure that the nozzle is not clogged. Make sure that there are no leaks and that the tank holds pressure. Backpack sprayers are not recommended. They have been known to leak without the operator's knowledge, resulting in poisoning of the operator. Hose-end sprayers, while economical and easy to use, are difficult to calibrate, and excessive application of pesticides is common with them. Mixing is the most dangerous pesticide activity. It is then that you are working with the concentrated material. Never mix or apply pesticides without another adult in the area, in case of an accident. Know the symptoms of poisoning, first aid recommendations, and how to get appropriate medical assistance. Have soap, towels, water hose, and other necessary supplies available in case of a spill or other accident. Never eat, drink, or smoke while handling pesticides. Always mix the pesticide exactly as recommended on the label. Mix the pesticide and fill the applicator in a well-ventilated, adequately lighted area. Do this on a concrete floor to facilitate easy cleanup of any spills. Never mix more pesticide than you will need. There is no good way to dispose of excess pesticide materials. When applying a pesticide, never apply more than the recommended amount. Any application of a pesticide in a manner not consistent with its labeling is a violation of the law. In addition, improper application can result in damage to plants. Be sure that your respirator is working properly. If you can smell or taste any pesticide, check the respirator and correct
.the problem. The fit may be wrong, the filter may be saturated, or it may be the wrong type.
Keep humans and pets away. Do not apply pesticides when air currents will carry the pesticide into other areas. Pesticides should be applied when the air is still. Dusts should be applied in the early morning when foliage is damp. Maintain accurate records of all pesticides used: name, amount, date applied, and the plant and pest treated. Read the label. It may recommend that children and pets be kept away from treated areas. Only a fenced garden or yard can keep unwanted children and pets from entering. Follow the restrictions on the use of food products which have been treated. Heed all instructions.
When a spray job is complete and there is some pesticide mix left in the spray tank, you should use it up. Spray it out on other crops where its use is safe, or dilute the mix and go back and spray the ground under and around the crop. (Putting more pesticide than recommended on the plant can cause plant damage.) However, a better approach is never to mix more material than needed. There is no good way to dispose of excess spray materials. Dusts and granules can be saved for the next application, but not a liquid material. Never pour pesticide spray material down a drain. The pesticide could stop the bacterial action in a septic tank and create additional problems, or it could contaminate a municipal sewage system.
Thoroughly clean the pesticide applicator. A dust applicator or granular spreader can corrode rapidly if pesticide residue remains in it. Sprayers should be rinsed three times, and a portion of the rinse material should be sprayed through the nozzle. A small amount of detergent in the first rinse will help remove any residue. This is particularly important if you have been applying an oil-based pesticide or herbicide. You would not want any herbicide residue to remain in the sprayer, since the next use of the sprayer may be an application of an insecticide on a plant which is susceptible to minute amounts of the herbicide. For this reason, many home gardeners have two sprayers, one for herbicides and the second for insecticides, Once the sprayer is clean, disassemble the nozzle, remove the tank cover, make certain the hose and spray mechanism is drained, and allow the sprayer to air-dry. When it is dry, reassemble the sprayer and store it in a clean, dry location. Proper disposal of empty pesticide containers is equally important. Paper or cardboard containers should be shaken and inspected to remove all pesticide materials. If the container has a plastic liner, rinse the container three times. Empty liquid containers should also be triple-rinsed. Allow the container to drain for 30 seconds. Fill the container onefourth to one-third full of rinse, secure the cover, then shake
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and pour out the rinse material, again allowing the container to drain for 30 seconds. Repeat two more times. All rinse material should be poured into the spray tank and then used up, as if it were pesticide.
Properly emptied paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, and glass containers should be punctured and crushed, as appropriate. Plastic containers should be punctured and crushed, if possible. Glass containers should be heavily wrapped in paper, tied, and then broken inside the paper wrapping. Puncturing, crushing, and breaking will prevent others from using these containers for other purposes. Containers can then be safely disposed of in the trash.
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Know the symptoms of pesticide poisoning. The first symptoms to appear include:
Fatigue Excessive sweating or salivating
Headache Nausea, vomiting
Dizziness Stomach cramps
Blurred vision Diarrhea
Don't wait for the more severe symptoms of pesticide poisoning to occur. These symptoms include:
Difficulty in walking Muscle twitching
Weakness Secretions from mouth or nose
Chest pains Difficulty in breathing
Dilated pupils Unconsciousness, coma, death
If you do have a pesticide accident, basic first-aid practices should be followed:
01-Pesticide on the clothes and skin. Remove clothes at once. Rinse the skin immediately with clean, cool water. Wash
the skin with large amounts of soap and water.
Pesticide in the eyes. Flush the eyes immediately with clean cool water-continue for at least 15 minutes. A garden hose
with low water pressure works fine.
lm Pesticide has been swallowed. Read the label to determine if vomiting should be induced. Never attempt to induce
vomiting in an unconscious or convulsing victim.
Pesticide inhaled. Get victim into fresh air immediately.
Open doors and windows. Loosen victim's clothing. If the victim is not breathing, begin artificial respiration at once. In all cases of pesticide poisoning obtain medical advice and treatment as rapidly as possible. The pesticide label should be given to the medical team or physician. Do not transport the pesticide container inside the passenger compartment of a vehicle. Never permit a victim of pesticide poisoning to drive, since dizziness or drowsiness can occur with little or no warning.
The Keys to Pesticide Safety
BEFORE USING PESTICIDE - STOP - READ THE LABEL! USE PESTICIDES ONLY AS A LAST RESORT! PURCHASE THE SAFEST PESTICIDE FOR THE PROBLEM! PURCHASE OR MIX ONLY NEEDED AMOUNT OF PESTICIDE! STORE PESTICIDES SECURELY! WEAR PROPER PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT! PREVENT DRIFT/CONTAMINATION DURING APPLICATION! CLEAN UP AND WASH UP IMMEDIATELY! DISPOSE OF PESTICIDE CONTAINERS PROPERLY! GET MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY FOR ALL EXPOSURES!
This public document was promulgated at a cost of $2,299.05, or 17 cents per copy to provide homeowners with information on safe
use of pesticides. 2-13.7M-86.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES, K.R. Tefertiller, director, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this information to further the purpose of the May 8 and June 30,1914 Acts of Congress; and 'is authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex or national origin. Single copies of Extension publications (excluding 4-H and Youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from County Extension Offices. Information on bulk rates or copies for out-of-state purchasers is available from C.M. Hinton, Publications Distribution Center, WAS Building 664, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this publication, editors should contact this address to determine availability.