Lowering Risk When Using Pesticides

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Lowering Risk When Using Pesticides

We Take Risks Every Day.

Every morning when we hop into our cars and drive to work, we are taking a risk. Every 9 seconds a person is injured in an automobile collision, every 12½ minutes someone dies, which equates to 42,000 deaths due to motor vehicle accidents every year in the United States.  We as drivers know the risks associated with driving (pollution and injury being the biggest) yet we still continue to drive every day. Why? Because the benefits of driving outweigh the risks. However, we as drivers also make several choices that can help reduce the risk. We wear our seatbelts, we decide at what speed to drive, and we can choose what kind of car to purchase based on gas economy, fuel emissions, and overall safety. When we can control certain factors we are more inclined to accept the risk.

A wasp lure is an alternative control to using pesticides.

Assess Risk and Benefits of Using Pesticides

We can use the same benefit vs. risk assessment when determining if a pesticide should be applied. You should assess the benefits and the risks before applying a pesticide. Pesticides should be used after other integrated pest management strategies have failed or if the problem is so big that chemicals are the only logical solution.

When talking about risk in association with pesticides, we in the business like to use the equation:

Risk = Toxicity X Exposure

The Risk is the potential for harm or the hazard. Toxicity is the capacity of a pesticide to cause harm. And Exposure is the opportunity for a pesticide to contact or enter the body.

We can determine the risk of a pesticide application by taking a look at the toxicity of that pesticide and the opportunity for the pesticide to come in contact with our body, also known as exposure. In order to reduce our Risk, we need to reduce Toxicity and/or Exposure.

Let’s Look at Toxicity

We should choose the least toxic pesticide for the application. The signal word on the pesticide can help you determining the toxicity. Danger Poison, Warning, and Caution (in order of highest toxicity to lowest) are 3 of the 4 signal words that are used on pesticides. (The Danger signal word does not indicate toxicity level only that the pesticide is a severe eye or skin irritant—still important information to have.) Being aware of signal words can help you determine how toxic the product is and if the product is something that you want to use in your home or on your property. Another thing to note here is that signal words also appear on many household products, such as laundry detergent, bleach and other cleaning products.

Mr. Yuk sticker

Just because it is second nature to us: Remember the importance of storing all these chemical and household products in a locked cabinet (or at least someplace very high) and out of reach of children. Place a Mr. Yuk sticker on products so your child knows to stay away from it!

How To Reduce Toxic Chemical Exposure

The second thing we can do to reduce risk is controlling for exposure. This means that as an applicator even in and around your own home, you wear all the proper personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE) required when applying a pesticide. You might be familiar with seeing images of applicators wearing a full white suit, boots, gloves, and a respirator. You may think that all that PPE is too much and you don’t have to wear it when applying a pesticide on your property. Well, you are half right.

An applicator putting on proper PPE before handling pesticides.

The reason that you see the applicators wearing all that PPE is because the label of the pesticide they are applying specifically states what PPE must be worn during application. So before you apply a pesticide take a look at the label, it’s going to tell you what you should wear during the application. You might not have to wear a full suit or a respirator but wear what the label says in order to reduce the exposure.  Remember, the Label is the Law, and not following it is a violation!

Does that mean you are going to wear the proper PPE though? Maybe, maybe not. You might decide that it’s too hot outside and skip putting on some PPE. People know that they should wear a seatbelt when driving, yet so many make the choice not to wear it increasing their risk for injury, “I’m only going a short distance” they say to themselves as justification. Every time they chose not wear their seatbelt it increases the chances of future injury, the same can be said with pesticides. Repeated low-level exposure to chemicals can increase the possibility of future adverse health effects. That’s why you see certified applicators who handle pesticides in their job every day being more cautious and wearing PPE to reduce their exposure as much as possible, and hence greatly reducing their overall risk.

Just Some Facts:

Do you know the 4 ways pesticides can enter the body? Oral (mouth), Dermal (skin), Inhalation (breathing), and Eyes. Be careful to protect these areas, especially the skin where the majority of exposure occurs. Just wearing chemically resistant gloves (and NOT leather or cloth) can reduce your exposure significantly.

Toxicity is measured for both short term exposure and long term exposure and is evaluated at a range of doses until they find immediate effects, delayed or long-term effects, and where death occurs. Acute Toxicity refers to the pesticide’s ability to cause effects from a single exposure within minutes or hours. Chronic Toxicity refers to the pesticide’s ability to cause effects from small doses repeated over a period of weeks, months, or years.

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