Safety in Using Lawn Pesticides
In lawn care, pesticide safety is one of the most important skills to learn. Not only do you need to be aware of how pesticide affects the health of your lawn, but also how it impacts you if misused or improperly handled. Because it involves hazardous chemicals, pesticide safety is a serious matter in maintaining your lawn.
Read on to learn more about pesticides for lawns and the specific steps you should be taking to ensure safety when applying pesticides to your lawn.
What is Lawn Pesticide?
A pesticide is a chemical substance that kills insects and other pests considered undesirable or unhelpful to the growing process of plants.
Pesticides are distinct from herbicides and even insecticides. Herbicides are essentially pesticides that kill unwanted plants, such as weeds. Insecticides are pesticides that target insects only. Lastly, fungicides are pesticides that kill fungi.
Pesticides are often used on lawns that have had a history of damages caused by invasive forces. Lawns in humid regions of the country may regularly experience insects and fungi developing from the extra moisture. Dry areas may suffer from weeds that thrive on other dying plants. To combat these events properly, careful steps need to be taken with safety and caution in mind.
Interpreting Pesticide Labels
It is legally required for pesticide brands to have labels indicating certain information about their product. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Name and address of the company
- Signal word indicating the safety level of the pesticide. Examples include "caution" or "warning"
- Active and inactive ingredients
- Storage and disposal instructions
- Directions for use
- EPA registration number
- Re-entry information indicating how long you have between using the pesticide and when you can be present in the area that it was applied on
Reading the label will also suggest the kinds of protective gear you need to wear while applying the pesticide. Oftentimes, this includes wearing closed-toe shoes, long pants, long sleeves, and gloves.
In addition, the label should provide important information for emergency personnel should you run into problems. This may include the brand and type of pesticide, as well as active ingredients that may have triggered the issue. Contact information for the local poison control unit should also be marked on the packaging. (In the U.S., the number for poison control is 800-222-1222)
Most importantly, the label provides directions for using the pesticide. Not following these directions could lead to putting yourself and others at risk, not to mention putting your lawn's health into jeopardy.
How to Use Pesticides Safely
The first rule of thumb with pesticides on lawns is that more is NOT always better. Applying more pesticide than what your lawn actually needs could not only render it ineffective, but also damaging to the soil and plants.
Following the label instruction step by step is the best way to achieve its maximum potential. For example, you may want to avoid windy days where spraying the pesticides could cause it to drift onto you.
Also, watch out for areas where bees and wasps may be present. You don't want to get rid of bees through pesticides, as they actually help your plants grow. This is another reason why you shouldn't use pesticides as heavily in the spring when plants are in full bloom and need the pollen of bees and other insects to grow properly.
Be cautious of applying pesticides near water sources. When using pesticide near ponds, rivers, or streams, look at the label to see if it's safe to use in these areas. Fish, bacteria, and other organisms in the water can be sensitive to chemicals and may react harshly against pesticides.
Storing and Disposing Pesticides
Most pesticide brands will come with information on the label regarding safe storing and disposing of the product. In general, you should always keep pesticides out of reach of children and pests. This could mean placing it on a high shelf or locked in a cabinet.
Also, most pesticides should be stored in cool areas where temperatures remain consistently under 100°F. If not, some of the volatile chemicals may react to the extreme heat, putting your surroundings at risk.
Never reuse a pesticide container for something else. You should always purchase new pesticides instead of refilling with a new or different product. To ensure proper disposal, poke holes in the container or according to the package instructions.