Are you using pesticides regularly and are not aware of their harmful effects? If yes, this guide is for you. Pesticides are toxic chemicals that can have a great impact on your health. In some cases, exposure to pesticides can even cause death.
If you use pesticides or are in contact with pesticides regularly, you need to know the dos and don'ts of using a pesticide. You must also know how to limit your exposure to pesticides and the action you must take if you are in direct or indirect contact with the pesticides. The primary purpose of a pesticide is to kill the pests residing in plants.
What is a Pesticide?
Before we move to the safe use of pesticides, let's understand what a pesticide is. A pesticide is a compound created by mixing different chemicals. The primary purpose of a pesticide is to either repel or kill the pests that might affect the growth of a plant.
Pesticides include an array of products like insecticides or insect killers, herbicides or weed killers, fungicides or fungus killers, and so on.
The Decision to Buy a Pesticide
Before you buy a pesticide, you must be sure if you need it. You must check the organisms that might be inhibiting the growth of your plants. You must check for healthier alternatives and management methods so that you and your plants are not exposed to the toxins of the pesticide. Before purchasing a pesticide, you must check if pests are the root cause of the problem.
Also, you must check the number of pests that affect the plants. For instance, if few caterpillars are moving around the plants, you don't need a pesticide to solve the problem. Also, you must consider the naturally present elements that might act as a cure to the problem. Also, you must identify the kind of pests and their life cycle. If they have a short life cycle, there is no point in spraying pesticides on the plant.
You can also try to alter the conditions that have supported the growth of the pests. It is always better to take a few preventative measures and control the environmental conditions. For instance, if sunlight facilitates the growth of pests, you can add a shed above the plants or keep watering them throughout the day. You can use several other ways to control pests. Some of these ways include:
- Culture control: Establishing a proper watering regime for all your plants and fertilizing them using natural manure, buying plants resistant to pests, etc.
- Mechanical control: You can hoe the weeds or spray water at a greater force so that all the insects on plants get flushed. You can also create some barriers to keep the pests away from the plants.
- Physical control: You can use mulches to prevent the growth of different weeds or conduct solarization to keep the plants away from soil-borne pests.
- Biological control: You can also introduce different species of insects in your garden that are known to eat the pests or the weeds growing on the plants.
There might be instances where you cannot avoid the use of pesticides. In such cases, you must use a combination of measures so that the plants are not affected negatively, and the pests remain away from the plants for long. You must consider a few steps when it comes to using the pesticide. Some of these steps are listed below for your reference.
Choose the Right Pesticide
There are several pesticides available in the market. Before you buy one, you should try to identify the pest that is the cause of the problem. If you fail to identify the pest, you will never be able to cure the problem. If you cannot identify the pest, you can get in touch with an expert who will give you an appropriate diagnosis of the situation.
Once you identify the pest, you must select a pesticide that directly deals with that pest while creating a minimum risk to human health. Before buying a pesticide, you must also check the label and application details. You must consider that a pesticide might not work on pests at all cycles in their life stage. Therefore, you should try to identify the structure and every other aspect of the pest before you select a pesticide.
Read the Pesticide Label
The product label on the pesticide pack is the most important part of a pesticide; hence, you should read it carefully before buying one. The government mandates the use of the label on all kinds of pesticides, and some bodies are responsible for approving the label.
Some important information that is included in the label are:
- The active ingredients and the composition of the pesticide
- The kind of pests that can be targeted
- The quantity that must be used
- How to apply the pesticide to the plant
- Protective gear that is needed while the pesticide application
- Signal like Danger, Toxic, etc.
- Possible hazards to humans, animals, etc.
- Measures to be taken if exposed to the pesticide
Now that you know what to consider while buying pesticides, let's understand the precautions you must take. You should never apply pesticides without protective gear. You must protect your eyes and hands while applying a pesticide. You can use a pair of rubber gloves to apply the pesticide to the plant. Also, you must try to wear long shirts and pants while applying pesticides so that your body is not exposed to the chemicals. You should also try to wear closed shoes to protect your feet.
You must avoid using cotton gloves and dust masks as they might absorb the chemicals. You must use a pair of rubber gloves and a respirator mask to provide better protection. You must go for a spray pesticide as applying it is easy, and you will be in minimum contact with the chemicals.
A better way of using pesticides is to dilute the mixture and then apply the diluted mixture. However, you need to be extremely careful with the concentrate measurement, and you should handle it safely. The process of diluting the pesticide will be mentioned on the pack. You must read it carefully before you start diluting the mixture.
Before applying the diluted mixture, add water to the sprayer to check the coverage. Once you are sure about the area that the spray covers, you can carefully fill the bottle and start applying the pesticide to the plants.
“The more, the better” is a policy that is never true for pesticides. You must never go onboard with using a pesticide. You must only spray the quantity that is specified on the pack. If you use more pesticides, you will waste them and increase your exposure to the chemical. Also, the damage it will cause to the plant will be beyond repair. Therefore, mix a small quantity and safely dispose of the leftover mixture.
Try to Minimize the Impact on the Environment
Many people tend to spray the pesticide on the entire plant believing that this will lead to an early resolution of the problem. However, when you use a pesticide, you should always go for spot treatments. You can follow the label to create the mixture and apply it directly to the affected areas.
Also, you can use tree trunk treatments and make bait stations to minimize the impact of pesticides on the environment. Ensure that you don’t spray the pesticides on the plants that are not affected by the pests. You should also avoid spraying pesticides if it's windy outside as it leads to the diffusion of the chemicals leading to health complications. When you use pesticides in limited quantities, you eliminate the risk of the pesticide flowing to different water bodies and contaminating them.
Disposing of the Pesticide
Disposing of the pesticide is the most important aspect of pesticide management. You must try to purchase pesticides in limited quantities. You must store the pesticide in the original bottle, and you should not transfer it to plastic containers or a used soda bottle.
You must dilute the quantity of pesticide required and dispose of the remaining pesticide at a hazardous waste facility near your home. You should not let them flow down the drain as they can contaminate the water and cause deadly diseases like jaundice, cholera, etc. You should keep the leftover pesticide away from drains and soil. The only and the best way to safely dispose of the leftover pesticide is by contacting the hazardous waste facility. You must also dispose of the container, and the pesticide as the container is not fit for other uses.
You must try to store all pesticides away from your home. As mentioned earlier, you must store them in their original containers and should not try to pour them into new containers. You must also add warning signs to where you keep your pesticide so that people do not mistake it for an edible liquid.
You must also keep the pesticides away from the reach of children and store them in a dark place where it remains protected from direct sunlight and rain.
Using a pesticide is dangerous as it can cause various health issues. However, you can avoid exposure if you exercise utmost caution in dealing with these chemicals. You must try to hire a pest control company as they are well-equipped to deal with pesticides. However, if you decide to use it by yourself, make sure you wear your respiratory mask and take all the necessary precautions.