Pesticides, Fertilizers and Household Cleaners...Revisited-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pesticides, Fertilizers and Household Cleaners...Revisited

With the arrival of summer come the thoughts of gardening, outdoor projects and  barbeques. These activities bring us into contact with some items that we probably have not used in several months. Now is the time to reacquaint ourselves with their proper use.

Pesticides used in and around the home include products to control insects, rodents, fungi, and microbes. They are sold as sprays, powders, crystals, balls, and foggers. Pesticides are used specifically because they are toxic to certain organisms. Consequently, they have risks as well as benefits, and it is important to use them properly. Always read the directions as to how to apply them correctly. If you treat a carpet or use a room fogger beware that your family pet or small children may be accidentally exposed. Always dispose of the empty containers properly and store unused pesticides safely where no small hands can get at them. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that some 79,000 children were involved in common household pesticide poisonings or exposures each year. In households with children, almost one-half stored at least one pesticide product within reach of the children.

Household fertilizers, just like pesticides, need to be applied correctly so it is a good idea to again read the directions for application carefully. Areas of a lawn that have been freshly treated with fertilizers should be off limits to children and pets to avoid tracking the fertilizer into the house or family vehicle. Use proper personal protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, and a dust mask when applying either pesticides or fertilizers.  Clean any tools or applicators thoroughly before storing to ensure no one is accidentally contaminated.

Cleaning products in the home are normally safe when used according to the directions but we have all heard of the dangers of mixing products that were not intended to be mixed together. Any product containing bleach should under no circumstances be mixed with any product containing ammonia. This can create poisonous chlorine gas, once used as a chemical weapon during World War I. So it is important to read the cleaner’s ingredients before mixing it with any other household cleaners. As with both pesticides and fertilizers, cleaners should be stored well out of reach of any children.

If you have any questions about anything in this article please contact the EH&S department at 268-3221.