- Are all pesticides dangerous?
- What should I do if I have
an accident or I am exposed to pesticides or some household product?
- What is exposure?
- I used a product with all
kinds of health warnings on it, but I didn't get sick. Why?
- My brother breaks out in a
rash when he uses furniture polish. I say he is just making it up so
he doesn't have to polish the furniture on Saturdays because I've never
had any problem. What do you think?
- Some of the kids in my class
says that "huffing" certain products like spray paint or airplane
glue will get you high. Are they right?
- How should household products
- Can empty household containers
- What should you do with leftover
pesticides and other household products?
- I've seen a lot of weeds
and insects in our garden. Is using a pesticide the best way to get
rid of them?
- Is using a pesticide the
best way to get rid of ants and roaches in my house?
- Is there a booklet or something
about pesticides that I can give my parents to use around the house?
- If I have a question about pesticides, who can I ask?
1. Are all pesticides dangerous?
No, not all pesticides are dangerous or hazardous to humans. For example, a pesticide known as "milky spore", which is actually a bacterium, is not dangerous to humans, animals or beneficial insects. It is a selective insecticide. Selective because it kills only certain types of beetles. These are Japanese beetles, Oriental beetles, Rose chafers and certain May and June beetles.
In general though, because pesticides are suppose to prevent, destroy, or repel pests they can also be dangerous or hazardous to humans, animals or the environment. The signal word on the label(s) will tell you how dangerous a pesticide is to humans. In addition to signal words, how dangerous or hazardous a pesticide can be depends on your exposure to the pesticide. And, it also depends on how the pesticide is used. It is important to use pesticides properly, which means according to the directions on the label. Doing so reduces the chances of causing health problems for you and damage to the environment. Misusing a pesticide can cause problems. Pesticides are misused when you do not follow the label instructions. Some examples of misuse are:
- using a pesticide for pests not on the label.
- using more of pesticide or making it stronger than it says on the label.
- using a pesticide in a location that is not on the label. If the label says "Outdoor use only," do not use it indoors.
2. What should I do if I have an accident or am exposed to pesticides or some household product?
If you, or someone you are with, have an accident or are exposed to a pesticide or household product you should tell your parents or other adult in your home immediately. Tell them what happened. Tell them what pesticide or household product it was. If possible, have the container and label with you. Tell them how much you came in contact with and what part of your body came in contact with it (Was it your eyes or skin or did you swallow some?) If an adult is not close by and you are hurt or starting to feel sick, then do the following:
- If someone splashes a household chemical
in the eyes, rinse out the eyes for 15-20 minutes in the shower or under
a faucet. Then call your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. You
can also call 911 or your local emergency ambulance number.
- If someone splashes a household chemical
on the skin, take off the wet clothing and rinse the skin for 15-20
minutes in the shower or under a faucet. Then call your poison control
center at 1-800-222-1222. You can also call 911 or your local emergency
- If someone drinks a household chemical,
give them half a glass of water to drink. Then call your poison control
center at 1-800-222-1222. You can also call 911 or your local emergency
- If someone inhaled a poisonous gas, quickly
get the person to fresh air. Do not breath the fumes yourself. Open
all the doors and windows wide. Call your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
You can also call 911 or your local emergency ambulance number.
- If someone is not breathing or won't wake up, call 911 or your local emergency ambulance number.
Be prepared for any emergency in your home. Keep your local emergency number, local ambulance number and the local poison control center telephone numbers on or next to your phone. All poison control centers now have the same telephone number. It is 1-800-222-1222.
If you would like more information on poison prevention or want to know about your local poison control center, you can look them up at the State and Regional Poison Control Centers Website. They may also be listed on the inside cover or first few pages of your telephone book.
3. What is exposure?
How harmful a chemical is to you depends on your exposure to it. A simple way to think about exposure is, "how strong" and "how long" did you come in contact with a chemical.
Knowing your exposure is important in trying to find out if a chemical is causing health problems. Figuring out what your exposure was to a chemical can be tricky because sometimes it may be a long time after you come in contact with a chemical before you get sick. Or it can take repeated contact with a chemical before you get sick or have a reaction, like vomitting or developing a rash.
If you have a reaction to any household products that have been used around your home, you will need to know what to tell your parents about your "exposure" to the product. The four (4) descriptions and example questions below will help you to understand exposure.
1. Your exposure is based on how you came in contact with the chemical.
Did some spray from a glass cleaner get on your skin while cleaning the bathroom mirror? Did you accidentally walk into the room where a fogger or insect bomb had just been set off and breathe the fumes? Did you play on the grass after a weed killer was put on your lawn? Were you washing your dog with a flea and tick shampoo?
2. Your exposure is based on how long were you in contact with the chemical.
Were you playing all day on the lawn after a weed killer was used? Did you spend a half hour picking tomatoes after an insect killer was sprayed in your garden? Did you sleep all night in a room that had just been painted?
3. Your exposure is based on how much of the chemical you come in contact with.
How much insect spray got on your arm; a few drops or enough to make a large wet spot? How much of insect powder to kill ants got on your hands; a little on your fingers or was it all over your hands? How much of the container of liquid cleaner spilled on your clothes; a little splash or half the bottle?
4. Your exposure is based on how strong or toxic the chemical is.
Did the spray from a pesticide container brought from the store get on you? Did the liquid from a container of weed killer and water that your Dad mixed together spill on you? What is the signal word on the label of the container - Caution, Warning or Danger?
4. I used a product with all kinds of health warnings on it but I didn't get sick. Why?
Whether you get sick (have a toxic effect) from any chemical substance is dependent on the amount of chemical you are exposed to or more accurately, the dose. Dose is the amount of a chemical that your body absorbs and processes. The effect can vary depending on the age, weight, and overall health of the person. For example, children are often more easily affected by chemicals than adults because they are younger and they usually weigh less than adults.
To get a better understanding of what dose means, think about when you have a bad headache. The label on a children's pain relief medicine may say: "4 tablets for children weighing 60-80 pounds." If your mom only gave you two tablets and you weigh 65 pounds, your headache may not go away. If you were to take 10 tablets, you could get very sick, maybe even die. This is called overdosing, meaning a person took more medicine than it said on the label. More is not better.
5. My brother breaks out in a rash when he uses furniture polish. I say he is just making it up so he doesn't have to polish the furniture on Saturdays because I've never had any problem. What do you think?
Some people may be sensitive (require a lower amount of a substance to cause an effect) to certain chemicals and should avoid any exposure to those substances. You could switch brands of furniture polish to try to find one that doesn't cause a rash or he could always use a pair of rubber gloves while polishing the furniture.
6. Some of the kids in my class says that "huffing" certain products like spray paint or airplane glue will get you high. Are they right?
It is very, very important never to use common products to try to get "high" from them. The "high" feeling that kids may get is actually a toxic effect and an overdosage can be likely and dangerous. Some toxic effects will go away such as a slight headache, dizziness, or nausea, but other effects can be permanent, like brain damage. There have been numerous cases of brain damage in kids who "huff" chemical products. Don't believe the kids that you tell you it is fun and harmless, it is neither. Don't poison your personal environment!
7. How should household products be stored?
Here are several "rules" to follow:
- Follow the storage instructions on the
- Store products out of reach of children
and pets. Keep all pesticides and harmful household products locked
in a cabinet, a utility area with lots of ventilation or air flow or
in a garden shed.
- Store flammable products outside your living
area and far away from places where they could catch fire. Keep flammable
products away from portable heaters, electric baseboard heaters, around
furnaces and outdoor grills.
- Never store pesticides or other household
products in cabinets where food is stored, or near food intended for
people or animals. Never store pesticides where you keep medicines.
- Always store household products in their original containers so that you can read the label for directions.
Remind your parents to never transfer pesticides or other household products to soft drink bottles, milk jugs or other food containers. Children, or even adults, may mistake them for something to eat or drink.
If you see household products in your home not being stored according to the these rules, don't be afraid to let your parents know! Storing chemicals safely is for everyone's protection.
8. Can empty household containers be recycled?
Many household products sold in plastic or glass containers are recyclable. To find out if you can recycle a household product's container read the section on storage and disposal on the label of the container. It will tell you if the container can be recycled. It will also tell you how to make the container ready for recycling. Of course, you must have a recycling program in your town or county. You or your parents can check with the organization responsible for the recycling program in your area. They can provide you with information on the types of household product containers that they will accept for recycling.
Check out how to find your State Contact Information on Household and Other Waste Disposal
9. What should you do with leftover pesticides and other household products?
You can safely store unused pesticides or other household products until you need them again. If you don't want to keep them, however, you need to get rid of or dispose of them properly. Do not pour leftover pesticides or other household products on the ground or in a stream in your backyard or anywhere else. Do not bury them anywhere or burn household product containers. Do not pour leftover pesticides or other household products down the sink, into the toilet or down a sewer or street drain. Many wastewater treatment systems cannot handle that type of pollution. You would be polluting the environment if you dispose of leftover household products in any of those ways. So what do you do?
Many communities have waste collection programs for unwanted household chemicals. Maybe you have seen flyers or adds for a "Hazardous Waste Collection Day" in your community. If you have household products for disposal, make sure your parents read the section on storage and disposal on the label of the container. They will need to follow these directions unless there are state and local laws that are different. Have your parents call your local solid waste management authority, environmental agency or health department to find out how to properly dispose of leftover chemicals. Find out when a "Hazardous Waste Collection Day" is scheduled for your community.
Visit the State Contact Information on Household and Other Waste Disposal Website for additional information.
10. I've seen a lot of weeds and insects in our garden. Is using a pesticide the best way to get rid of them?
There are other things you can do to take care of weeds or insects in your garden besides just using a pesticide.
For weeds: Pulling out weeds by hand, making sure you get the roots, too, is a good way to get rid of garden weeds. Some gardeners also use physical barriers to control weeds in their garden. For example, between their rows of seeds they will put a layer of mulch or a tightly woven mesh material. Water can seep into the soil underneath these barriers but the sun can't get through, so the weeds don't grow.
For insects: Did you know that not all insects in your garden are harmful to the plants? There are some insects that gardeners want in their garden. These are called "beneficial insects". Ladybugs are "beneficial insects." They eat other insects that destroy plants like aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies and mites. Other "beneficial insects" include spiders, centipedes, dragon flies and ground beetles. You can even buy these insects through some gardening catalogs. Along with having "beneficial insects" in your garden other ways to control insect pests are:
- making sure debris where insects may hide
or breed is removed;
- alternating rows of different kinds of
plants. Insects that like carrots, for example, may not spread to all
your carrot plants of a row if peas are between them;
- using plants that repel insects around
your garden. For example planting garlic among vegetables helps keep
away Japanese beetles, aphids, the vegetable weevil and spider mites.
Planting basil near tomatoes repels tomato hornworms;
- and, hand-picking the bugs off. (Yukky sounding I know.)
Many gardening books, or the pest specialists at your County Cooperative Extension Service or local plant nurseries can give you more information on ways to control weeds and insects in your garden.
(To find the phone number to your County Cooperative Extension Service, try the yellow pages where the listings are for city, county and state agencies. You can also use the web to find your State Cooperative Extension office.
11. Is using a pesticide the best way to get rid of ants and roaches in my house?
Like in your garden, there are things you can do besides just using a pesticide to control or get rid of ants or roaches in your house. The main thing is to get rid of their food sources and breeding places or areas where they hide. Keeping your house clean is important in preventing and controlling pests. Many of these tips apply to other insect or rodent pests as well.
Remove water. Have your parents fix leaky plumbing. Don't leave any water in trays under your houseplants, under your refrigerator or in buckets overnight. Standing water, damp areas or water-damaged material will attract insects.
Remove food. Areas where food is stored, prepared or eaten need to be kept clean. Don't leave dirty dishes unwashed. Don't leave food in pet bowls on the counter or floor for long periods to time. Store opened food items in tightly closed plastic or glass containers. That will prevent insects from chewing through boxes or bags to get to the food. Put food scraps, food wrappers and other refuse in tightly covered garbage cans. Empty your garbage frequently.
Remove or block off indoor pest hiding places. Have your parents caulk cracks and crevices to control pest access to your home. Avoid storing newspapers, paper bags, and boxes for long periods of time. Also check for insects in packages or boxes before bringing them into your home. Vacuum regularly, especially under your appliances, so that dust balls don't develop and provide hiding places.
Block pest entryways. Have your parents make sure any passageways through the floor are blocked. Caulk and seal openings in walls. Place weatherstripping on doors and windows. Put screens on all floor drains, windows and doors.
Some other suggestions to control common household pests are:
For flies: Clean up pet droppings from your yard. Make sure all garbage is in tightly closed garbage cans. Fix or replace screens in doors and windows. If you don't have screens in your doors or windows, keep them closed. Use a flyswatter.
For fleas: Bathe your pets regularly. Wash any mats, beds or surfaces that they lay on. Vacuum your house at least weekly.
For mice and rodents: Follow the tips above about removing food and water, blocking off entryways and removing hiding places. Have your parents use mouse or rat traps. Remind them to put the traps in places where the rodents will find them, but away from kids and pets.
12. Is there a booklet or something about pesticides that I can give my parents to use around the house?
Yes there is. The booklet Citizens' Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety (2.5 MB, PDF format) contains lots of information. This booklet explains how to control pests in and around the home, alternatives to chemical pesticides, how to choose pesticides, and how to use, store, and dispose of them safely. It also discusses how to reduce exposure when others use pesticides, how to prevent pesticide poisoning and how to handle an emergency, how to choose a pest control company, and what to do if someone is poisoned by a pesticide. It even has a section that helps you calculate how much pesticide you should use or mix to treat different areas.
Note: The "Citizen's Guide" is a 2.5 MB PDF file. You will need PDF Reader Software to read it. (The reader is free.) You can also get a copy of the "Citizen's Guide" from the National Service Center for Environmental Publications. Call 1-800-490-9198 and ask for the "Citizens' Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety", EPA publication number EPA 730-K-95-001.
13. If I have a question about pesticides, who do I ask?
If you have a question concerning pesticides you can contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC). NPIC provides information related to pesticide products and information concerning pesticide poisonings. Their Web site can direct you to your local Cooperative Extension Service for questions on lawns, gardens and pest control. They can also give you a contact to report any environmental damage or health problems caused by using a pesticide. You can reach NIC at 1-800-858-7378 or by email at email@example.com.
The EPA Regional Office nearest you can also provide you with information on pesticides, hazardous chemicals, waste disposal and much more! Look them up on the web.