Reducing Pesticide Exposure

  1. Try to get rid of pests without chemicals.
  2. If using pesticides, follow the directions.
  3. Don't buy more pesticide than you need.
  4. Store and dispose of pesticides properly.

Pesticides are materials used to manage pests such as insects, rodents, weeds, molds and germs. Pesticides come in various forms, including sprays, liquids, powders, granules, baits and foggers (total release aerosols).

Because both natural and manmade pesticides are designed to manage living things, they can be harmful to people and the environment, especially when they are used, stored, or disposed of improperly. This brochure lists recommendations on ways to reduce pesticide exposure and risks to health and the environment.

Prior to purchase, read and make sure you understand and can follow the label directions. Also, be sure the product can be used on the pest you want to manage and in the place you want to use it. The label contains important information on ingredients, precautions, safety equipment, first aid, environmental hazards, use directions, storage and disposal. It is dangerous, and illegal, to not follow the directions on the label.

Managing Pests and Choosing a Pesticide

  • Prevent pest problems by cleaning house, yard and garden to remove places where pests can live and get food and water. Keep pests outdoors by blocking their way in.
  • Identify the pest and the extent of infestation if a pest problem arises. Your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office can help.
  • Determine whether chemicals are needed. Try using nonchemical management methods, such as beneficial predators and parasites (like ladybugs, nematodes, etc.) or physical methods like hand weeding, mulching, setting traps or using a flyswatter.
  • Choose a pesticide product, if needed, by looking for one that is specific for the pest you have, and is also in the proper form (bait, spray, etc.).
  • Buy only pesticides that are in their original containers with the label attached.

Mixing and Applying Pesticides

  • Follow directions on the label exactly. Do not increase or reduce the use rate or use the product for purposes other than those on the label.
  • Wear protective clothing as described on the label. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, non-absorbent gloves and shoes, goggles and a dust/mist filter mask helps to protect you from exposure. Store protective clothing away from living spaces.
  • Never smoke or eat while handling pesticides.
  • Mix or dilute pesticides outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Mix only the amount needed for the immediate job. Never use the same measuring cups and spoons used for pesticides to prepare food, even if washed.
  • Always close child-resistant packaging correctly, even when only stopping for a break or between mixings.
  • Keep children, pets and toys away from areas where pesticides are mixed and applied until the pesticide has dried or for as long as is stated on the label.
  • Avoid broadcast or total release aerosol applications indoors when possible. Do not let pesticides contaminate food or food preparation surfaces. Ventilate thoroughly after any indoor application.
  • Use child-resistant insect or rodent baits and place them in areas where children and pets cannot reach them.
  • Clean up spills promptly according to label directions. Generally, liquid pesticides can be sprinkled with sawdust, kitty litter or vermiculite and swept into a plastic bag for proper disposal in an outdoor trash can.
  • Wash exposed skin; rinse gloves, shoes or boots; change clothes after applying pesticides. Wash clothes soiled with pesticides separately from other laundry in hot water and detergent.

Storage and Disposal

  • Buy the least amount of pesticide practical for the job to reduce storage and disposal problems.
  • Follow storage directions on the label. Keep pesticides, and any equipment used to apply them, in a locked cabinet in a well-ventilated area, away from children, pets and food.
  • Keep pesticides in their original containers with their original labeling.
  • Store pet-use and all other pesticides away from family medicines and toiletries.
  • Follow disposal directions on the label for getting rid of leftover pesticide and empty containers. Never pour pesticides down the sink, toilet, sewer drain or onto the ground.
  • Never reuse a pesticide container.

Minimizing Environmental Impacts

  • Follow label directions to prevent pesticides from getting into groundwater or surface water. Do not apply pesticides right before a heavy rain or in places where they might wash into water bodies.
  • Use pesticides when the wind is no more than a light breeze and the temperature is cool, such as early morning or evening, to reduce travel of pesticide to nearby areas.
  • Pay attention to information on potential hazards to wildlife, fish, bees and endangered plants or animals listed in the environmental hazards section of the label.

Pesticide Poisonings

  • If the person is unconscious, having trouble breathing or having convulsions, call, or have someone else call, the local emergency service.
  • In all other cases, call a doctor for medical assistance, read the label for first aid instructions and give first aid. In addition to your doctor, a poison control center or local emergency service can help.
  • Have the pesticide label handy when calling for medical advice or visiting a doctor, clinic or hospital. Ask your health care provider to call the New York State Department of Health Pesticide Poisoning Registry.

For More Information

  • New York State Department of Health's Environmental Health Infoline: 1-800-458-1158 or your local health department
  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Pesticides Management: (518) 457-7482 or your regional DEC office
  • Your Regional Poison Control Center
  • National Pesticide Telecommunications Network: 1-800-858-7378
  • Your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office

2723 - 6/99