It's time for spring house and garage cleaning, and for some, it's also time to spray shrubs, trees and lawns against insects and pests. However, these unwanted guests sometimes get the last laugh because pesticides, if used improperly, can harm people, pets, birds and even your prize-winning garden plants. So if you plan to use pesticides, please consider these safety suggestions:
- Store pesticides in a ventilated, dry and securely locked area — away from food.
- Don't eat, drink or smoke while using pesticides.
- Make your own safety fashion statement by wearing a hat, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, shoes, gloves and safety glasses when applying pesticides. In some instances, breathing protection may also be required.
- Avoid spraying or spreading chemicals on a windy day. The wind gusts can act as funnels and direct dangerous fumes and particles into your lungs and eyes.
- When you're finished using pesticides, deposit your clothing directly into the washer, using the hot-water setting. Do not wash them with other clothes.
- Decontaminate yourself by taking a shower as soon as you're finished applying pesticides.
- When applying insect repellent to your skin, be sure not to exceed the recommended dose or schedule on the label. Too much can be hazardous to your health. This is especially true for the young or elderly. And if you're pregnant, don't use insect repellents unless your physician says it's OK.
- If you apply bug repellent to your pet, wash your hands afterward. Use gloves if you have any cracks or cuts on your fingers or hands to prevent the repellent from being absorbed into your skin.
- Lastly, please note that nonchemical pesticides, or pesticides made from products found in nature, can be as toxic as chemical pesticides. Read and follow the safety suggestions listed on the label.
If you become ill several hours to days after using pesticides, call your health-care professional immediately or go directly to the nearest emergency room. Always remember to write down the name of the pesticide you used and spell it exactly as it appears on the container.
Some symptoms of pesticide toxicity include:
- Allergic reactions such as itching, swelling and stinging of the skin, eyes, nose, mouth and throat.
- Rapid breathing along with shortness of breath, excessive drooling, fatigue and sleepiness, headache and muscle twitching.
For more information, please call the National Pesticide Telecommunications Network at 1-800-858-7378.