With spring right around the corner, many people are ready to start planning and preparing for their upcoming horticulture tasks that awaits them this year. With the variety of horticulture tasks that are out there, many people will be using some sort of pesticide(s) throughout the warmer season months to control insects, diseases, weeds and more. When using any pesticide(s), it is important to always take the proper safety precautions and understand what pesticides you are using.
The first thing you need to know is what a pesticide: A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended to preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest, and any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant. There are many different pesticides out on the market today; there are fungicides (control fungus), herbicides (control weeds and other undesirable plants), insecticides (control insects and related arthropods), miticides (control mites), and many more pesticides that control unwanted problems. When using any pesticide, it is important to know what you are trying to target so the proper pesticide can be used.
Pesticide formulations have both the active ingredients (the concentrated chemical) as well as inert ingredients (help improve application effectiveness, safety, handling, and storage). Pesticides come in several different formulations, liquid and dry being the two most common. With the liquid formulations, these are usually mixed with water (unless stated differently on the label) and include emulsifiable concentrates (EC), solutions (S), Ready-to use low concentrate solutions (RTU), ultra-low volume (ULV), flowables (F) and more. Dry formulations that are used include dusts (D), baits (B), granules (G), wettable powders (WP) and more. When selecting which pesticide to use, always select which one is going to give you the best coverage on the target pest and also be the safest for you, your surroundings, and the environment.
All pesticides are designed to be toxic to living organisms so that control of unwanted pests can be achieved. They (the pesticides) can cause both short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) damage to humans if the right pesticide comes in contact with humans; therefore, taking the right precautions when using pesticides is a must! Using personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn when dealing with any pesticide; the label on the pesticide being used will state what PPE should be used (the minimum requirements). Some of the PPE listed on the label may include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, coveralls, aprons, chemical-resistant gloves and footwear and hoods; these are just a few and very basic forms of PPE that can be listed. Make sure when using any PPE that the PPE is inspected for any wear and tear, clean from any previous uses or new PPE is being used if necessary, and that the PPE is working properly because if the PPE is not working properly, the equipment may be doing more harm than good.
By protecting yourself with the proper PPE, you are reducing the risk of pesticide exposure which can protect your health. Pesticides can enter the body through four primary routes: the skin (dermal), the eyes, the mouth (oral) and the lungs (inhalation). Of the four previously listed, the skin usually gets the most exposure while handling pesticides. Whether it is mixing the formulation, spraying the pesticide, storing it, or opening it, the risk is always there and this is the reason PPE should be used anytime pesticides are being handled. You also want to protect your eyes if the label states eye-wear is needed, never put pesticides in your mouth and keep out of reach for children, and if a breathing system is needed, always make sure it is working properly and new filters are being used.
When using pesticides, it is always important to know what you are trying to achieve by using a certain pesticide; only apply pesticides when and where necessary and only in the amounts that are needed (use non-chemical control methods when possible). Identifying and understanding the pest, its life cycle, habits, and habitat will greatly increase the effectiveness of the pesticide that you plan to use on the target. If the pest has not been properly identified, it is highly possible that the chemical you use (and even non-chemical methods) will possibly fail. Always remember to read the entire label of any pesticide and follow the label instructions and directions because if you follow the proper procedures when handling pesticides, it will greatly reduce the exposure you have to the chemical and give you the best coverage possible for the target pest. Again, pesticides are formulated mixtures that are designed to be toxic to living organism and we, as humans, are living organisms. If anyone handles any pesticides, keep the following numbers available at all times: National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222), Animal Poison Control Center (1-800-426-4435), and National Pesticide Information Center (1-800-858-7378).