Safety first when using pesticides

with Brownie

I had to deal with an ant invasion the other week. The little blighters had made themselves at home in our storage room, nesting and laying eggs in and amongst everything.

After emptying everything and cleaning out every ant, I had to resort to doing some serious barrier spraying around, inside and underneath the storage room.

This meant using an agricultural-strength insecticide, and it prompted me to write this column.

A pesticide is something used against an undesirable weed, insect, animal or disease.

There are many types of pesticides registered for use in the home and garden including attractants/lures, biological control agents, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, molluscicides, miticides, nematicides, repellents and rodenticides – just to name a few.

Before using any pesticide, the first thing you should do is to read the label. It has lots of important information on what’s in the product, how to use the product, how not to use it, how to mix and spray it, any withholding periods and safety and first aid instructions.

You need to make sure you protect yourself when using any chemicals around the backyard. The minimum protective clothing would be long trousers, a long sleeved shirt, gloves, covered footwear and a hat.

Protective breathing mask may be useful if you suffer from respiratory problems or just for your peace of mind.

Pesticide poisoning may occur slowly over time or rapidly after exposure. But proper handling and wearing protective clothing will mean that you can safely use these chemicals in responsible manner.

Some useful tips are:

  • Cover any cuts and skin abrasions.
  • After spraying, wash you hands thoroughly before eating or going to the toilet.
  • Don’t smoke when using pesticides. In fact, you shouldn’t be smoking at all.
  • Don’t store chemicals in anything but the original bottle. In most cases where children are poisoned, it happens because they are stored in a drink bottle.
  • Keep all chemical containers stored in a secure place, up high away from curious little hands and playful pets.
  • As the measuring container will contain residue of the concentrated product, make sure you rinse it out really well.
  • Don’t use pesticides in a confined area where there is little air flow.
  • Don’t use pesticides in windy weather, as they may be blown where you don’t want them (like onto your washing).
  • Adhere to any withholding period – “don’t pick tomatoes for 7 days” means exactly that.
  • If you spill some concentrated chemical, use kitty litter, sawdust or soil to absorb it.
  • Have separate sprayers for herbicides and for insecticides – and mark them so they don’t get them mixed up.
  • Rinse any spray equipment well after each use – don’t forget to flush out the spray wand as well.
  • Empty pesticide containers should be triple rinsed.  This means that they are filled to a third with water, the cap replaced and shaken. The water is then tipped into a container to be used later in another pesticide mixture. Repeat this twice more. Triple rinsing removes over 99.5% of all the chemical in the container.
  • Dispose of the triple rinsed container properly. This means crushing and putting into the rubbish bin, or – if it’s a larger container – taking to the Council tip to be collected as part of the DrumMuster program.
  • Don’t use empty containers as water drums, storage containers or cut in half for animal feed or water buckets. And never burn them.

If you are sensible, using pesticides around the backyard can be safe for you, your family, your neighbours and the environment.

All it takes is a dash of common sense mixed with a splash of logic, all used with due care and consideration.