National Pesticide Information Center



Pesticide Drift

Pesticide drift can happen during the application, when droplets travel away from the target site. Drift can also happen after the application, when chemicals become vapors, and the vapors move off-site. Pesticide drift can cause accidental exposure to people, animals, or plants.

If you suspect a case of pesticide drift, contact your state pesticide regulatory agency. Often, it’s illegal to apply pesticides in a manner that allows them to move off-site.

Minimize or prevent pesticide drift:

  • Read and follow the label directions carefully. The label may prohibit applications under certain weather conditions, or using high-pressure sprays, or with certain nozzles.
  • Bigger droplets fall faster, so they are less likely to drift with the wind. Adjust your nozzle(s) and pressure to make bigger droplets.
  • Avoid applications when there is fog hanging in the air. It’s a good indication that a 'temperature inversion' may be taking place. That increases the risk of pesticide drift.
  • Applying some herbicides before hot weather can lead to vapor drift. That vapor can seriously damage nearby plants. Read your herbicide labels carefully to learn more.
  • Direct sprays away from property lines. Keep the wand or hose as close as possible to the target.
  • If you have to treat a tree near your property line, consider talking to your neighbor first. They may take steps to avoid any potential exposure.
  • Use your best judgment, with your unique knowledge of the site and the application equipment to keep the product on target.

To learn more, see the resources below or contact NPIC for assistance. If you have questions about drift, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Additional Resources:

Last updated July 15, 2016

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