Pesticides can be important tools in pest management, but by their nature, pesticides are toxic. Pesticide products can pose risks to humans, animals and the environment. Before choosing a pesticide, it is important to read and understand the directions on the product label. This will minimize your chance of having a problem with the pesticide once you use it.
To reduce risk, choose pesticide products with low toxicity by looking for the "signal word" CAUTION. This is one of the core concepts in Integrated Pest Management. You can also search for pesticide products registered in your state. The databases vary by state, but they often allow you to search for a product by the pest to be controlled, by active ingredient and/or by product name.
Also, your local Cooperative Extension Office may be able to provide a product recommendation to control your pest. Extension agents are often familiar with products and pests in your area. Ask about pesticide resistance.
When selecting pesticides, keep these important tips in mind:
- Learn about the pest. Has it been properly identified by a professional or an expert? Time and money may be wasted due to misidentification.
- Look for your pest on the label. Choose a product that is designed with your pest in mind. The pests that the product targets will be listed on the label.
- Decide how much pest activity you can tolerate. It may not be possible to completely eliminate the pest, but you may be able to keep the population down to a comfortable level.
- Consider the treatment area. Are there sensitive areas near the treatment area? Does the area slope towards a vulnerable area like a stream, garden, well, or playground? Are valuable plants nearby that could be affected by drift?
- Select an effective product. Consider contacting a professional, such as your local extension office, for advice on which products will be best suited for your pest problem.
- Look for the signal word. Products labeled "CAUTION" are low in toxicity, and some of the lowest toxicity products may not have a signal word.
- Read about the required safety equipment. Make sure you use protective equipment if required by the label. This could include gloves, goggles, chemical resistant clothing, or other items.
- Learn about the ingredients of the products. Does it target a specific pest group or a broad range of pest groups? Call NPIC and speak to one of our Pesticide Specialists for more information.
- Buy only what you need this season; mix only what you need today. Pesticides may have a limited shelf life, and stored pesticides can be a hazard.
- Read the entire label every time you use the product. Following the label will reduce risks and allow the product to work as the manufacturer intended.
If you need more information on products you are considering, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (7:30am-3:30pm PST), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Bio-Integral Resource Center
- Least Toxic Product List - Our Water, Our World.
- Pesticides: Safe and Effective Use in the Home and Landscape - University of California Statewide IPM Program
- Before You Buy or Apply an Herbicide - University of Hawaii Extension
- How pesticide resistance develops - Michigan State University Extension
- Pesticide Product Toxicity Ratings - Texas Cooperative Extension System