How Using Pesticides in Landscaping Works

Pesticide sign on manicured lawn.
Pesticide sign on manicured lawn.
iStockphoto.com/Kirby Hamilton

­When you look at a pro and con list, you know what to do. You weigh the good versus the bad and then make an educated decision. Sometimes, people forget this helpful techniq­ue and altogether beneficial things can get a bad rap. Pesticide usage may be one of those things.

Most of the available information regarding pesticides is negative, as is the public's perception of pesticide use. In fact, one researcher found that negative viewpoints outnumbered positive ones 40 to one [source: Cooper]. But obviously pesticides play an important part in our society, or they wouldn't have withstood the test of time as they have thus far.

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Pesticide usage can be risky, but it comes with numerous benefits. Pesticides not only help non-weed plants grow quickly and free from disease, but they keep termites out of your kitchen and your carpet flea free [source: Delaplace].

­This article will help you better understand pesticides, their uses, their benefits and how to react during pesticide-re­lated emergencies. Let's start with the basics.

Pesticides are categorized in two ways -- they can be either "domestic" or "non-domestic." Domestic pesticides, which don't require any formal training for application, are those you can buy at pretty much any retail store. They usually come in small quantities and have low concentrations of the active chemicals. Non-domestic pesticides on the other hand, are serious business. These are usually bought in bulk and reserved for those with special training and equipment. Their higher concentrations make them unsafe for use by the non-qualified.

So you know pesticide exposure can cause poisoning, but more often than that, it prevents disease. Read on to discover just how important pesticides have become.

Benefits of Using Pesticides in Landscaping

When you walk into your local grocery store, the colorful produce section usually welcomes you. Deep red tomatoes, vivid green peppers and bright yellow bananas await your cart. And it doesn't matter what season it is. Now, year-round you can find a variety of produce that used to be considered seasonal. You have pesticides, among other factors, to thank for this abundance of choice.

Most of our food comes from farms and lands that use pesticides. Pesticides keep insects, such as flies that might be spreading harmful diseases, off of our dinner tables [source: Cooper]. Their use saves the producer money that he would otherwise have to spend on costly equipment and fuel, allowing him to sell his produce at lower prices.

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Specifically, pesticides control insects like ticks or mosquitoes, which may be spreading harmful diseases like yellow fever or malaria. Pesticide use can also help maintain healthy ecosystem balances by limiting the spread of invasive exotic species [source: Delaplace].

There are huge risks associated with the improper use of pesticides, as they are a poison that affects humans. But when used as directed, the benefits can outweigh the risks. Some of the less obvious benefits include less greenhouse gas, reduced fuel use by producers and improved shelf life, on top of the decrease in disease and suffering recognized in both humans and animals [source: Cooper].

There are definite steps you can take to use pesticides as safely as possible. Read ahead to find out how.

Pesticide Application Safety

It's not rocket science -- it's common sense. You should never work with hazardous materials, such as pesticides, without being prepared. So before you rush out to spray your perfectly cut lawn with the latest insect warding chemicals, do your homework.

If mixing chemicals to produce a specific pesticide, always work in a well-ventilated area. Breathing in these harmful vapors can affect your body, creating a "high" that may be a simple as dizziness, but could lead to kidney, liver or nervous system damage.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a lot of useful information regarding pesticides and pesticide poisoning. First off, never use more pesticide than directed. Keep your skin covered and avoid contact with the chemicals. This means wearing impermeable gloves as well as long pants and sleeves. Don't apply pesticides in the rain or wind, when the chemicals can be transported to undesignated areas [source: EPA].

When storing pesticides, make sure you've got the proper containers. Place them high up where children and animals can't be exposed to them. This also prevents any damage to the containers if flooding occurs, which could spread the chemicals and cause contamination.

Before disposing of any large quantities of pesticides, contact your local Department of Natural Resources -- they'll be able to direct you of how to do so properly. Keep in mind that open dumping or burning is usually illegal.

If you're concerned about pesticide poisoning, the next page should offer some helpful information.

Pesticide Poisoning Symptoms

Being fully informed will help you deal with pesticide poisoning if you encounter it. There are two kinds of poisoning: acute and chronic. Acute poisoning occurs when an individual is exposed to a single dose of pesticide. You may recognize immediate and drastic symptoms, or find that their onset is delayed. Chronic poisoning, on the other hand, is the result of repeated exposure to the harmful chemicals over a long period of time. This is most common among the farmers and producers who use pesticides regularity on their land. Symptoms can include nervousness, slowed reflexes, irritability and an overall decrease in health [source: Cornell].

Some common symptoms associated with mild acute pesticide poisoning include: headache, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, restlessness, nervousness, perspiration, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, thirst, moodiness, soreness, skin irritations, eye irritations and irritations of the nose and throat [source: Cornell].

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Unfortunately, because these symptoms are common of many conditions, pesticide poisoning can be difficult to detect. Be sure to monitor closely the health of anyone who is exposed to doses of pesticides and take immediate action if you believe there is a chance of poisoning.

Most cases of pesticide poisoning are mild and can be easily treated. To find out what you should do if you experience pesticide poisoning, read on.

Treating Pesticide Poisoning

Pesticide poisoning is scary. First and foremost, if this is an emergency and you believe you or someone around you may have pesticide poisoning, call 911 or contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

To protect those around you, have­ a first aid kit at the ready that includes eye wash, clean water, syrup of ipecac, activated charcoal powder, soap, disposable towels and clean clothing [source: Andre]. Also, make sure you have a phone list prepared and easily accessible with the phone numbers of your local poison control and emergency health center.

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If pesticides have been swallowed, check this list to see if action is appropriate and contact poison control:

  • Wash the victim's mouth with lots of water. The pesticide label should tell you whether or not the victim should actually drink water to dilute the chemicals. This is not always the appropriate route though, so read the label carefully.
  • Read the label or contact a professional to find out if vomiting should be induced. You can induce by using a dose of syrup of ipecac or by sticking your finger into the victim's mouth until you touch the back of his or her throat. Never induce vomiting on a victim who is lying down or unconscious as this may cause choking.

If any animals have been exposed to pesticides, you should take them to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. If they have already started to show signs of poisoning, which include unconsciousness, bleeding, trouble breathing or seizures, contact an emergency pet clinic immediately. The ASPCA offers an animal poison consultation at 1-800-246-4435 [source: NPIC].

For additional information, check out the links on the following page.

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More Great Links

Sources

  • Andre, Paul, and Fred Fishel. "Pesticide Poisoning Symptoms and First Aid." University of Missouri. Accessed 11/22/2008. http://extension.missouri.edu/xplor/agguides/agengin/g01915.htm
  • Baker, David E. "Pesticide Application Safety." University of Missouri. Accessed 11/22/2008.http://extension.missouri.edu/explore/agguides/agengin/g01916.htm
  • Cooper, Jerry and Hans Dobson. "Pesticides and Humanity." Natural Resources Institute. Accessed 11/22/2008.www.croplifeasia.org/ref_library/cropLifeInternational/Pesticides%20and%20humanity,%20benefits.pdf
  • Cornell University. "Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning." Cornell University Pesticide Management Education Program. Accessed 11/22/2008.http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/facts-slides-self/core-tutorial/module09/
  • Delaplace, Keith S. " Pesticide Usage in the United States: History, Benefits, Risks, and Trends." Accessed 11/22/08.http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B1121.htm
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "Pesticide Safety Tips." Accessed 11/22/2008.http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/pest_ti.htm
  • Mourin, Jennifer. "Global "No Pesticides Used' Day." Pesticide Action Network. Accessed 11/22/2008. http://www.poptel.org.uk/panap/archives/lasfc2k.htm
  • National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC). "Pesticide Quick FAQ's." Accessed 11/22/2008.http://npic.orst.edu/qfaq.html
  • New Brunswick, Department of Environment. "Lawn Care and Pesticide Use." Accessed11/22/08www.gnb.ca/cnb/promos/pest/PDF/pesticides.options.paper-e.pdf
  • Reigart, J. Routt and James R. Roberts. "Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings." EPA. Accessed 11/22/2008 http://npic.orst.edu/rmpp.htm