As 2012 winds down, here is something to think for 2013 when you are planning a pest management program for your landscape. Are pesticides safe? People interpret the term "safe" differently. To some, it means that no precautions are necessary when using a pesticide. Some think that "all natural" means "non-toxic." Imagine if you were asking your doctor about the safety of a new drug. It may satisfy you to hear the doctor say, "It's safe." However, you may want to know about the potential risks and precautions in order to feel satisfied that you're getting the whole story from your doctor.
When people ask the question "Is it safe?" about a pesticide, they may be concerned about whether it's safe for their children or pets or for the environment. People need to be aware that every pesticide is toxic if the exposure level is high enough. Therefore, no pesticide is entirely safe, even organic ones. Safety is based on each individual's level of risk tolerance and is subjective.
Using pesticides safely depends on many things. You need to properly identify the pest, select the right product to manage that pest and use it carefully according to label directions. The directions are written to minimize the risk of problems and to define the legal uses for the product.
Here are some basic tips to follow to reduce risk when using pesticides: Make sure kids, pets and other people are out of the area before mixing and applying pesticides. Wear the appropriate protective clothing - at a minimum a long sleeve shirt, long pants, closed-toe shoes, non-absorbent gloves, glasses, a hat and any other protective items required by the label. Mix pesticides outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. Mix only the amount you need that day to avoid storing or disposing of excess. Be prepared for a pesticide spill with paper towels, kitty litter or sawdust, garbage bags and non-absorbent gloves on hand. Avoid using excessive amounts of water to deal with a spill because this only spreads the pesticide and could be harmful to the environment. Always read the label before using the product. Follow it exactly. Keep the Poison Control Number (800) 222-1222 handy. Avoid windy conditions when applying a pesticide. After using pesticides, wash your hands before going to the bathroom, smoking or eating.
This information is taken from the National Pesticide Information Center, http://npic.orst.edu/. If you have questions about pesticides, you can contact the Center, (800)858-7378 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at email@example.com or 887-2252.