Safe Use of Pesticides

Guidelines to keep in mind

Published in the March 2009 Issue Published online: Mar 07, 2009
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With growing health and environmental concerns, using pesticides properly is something growers just have to get used to. “I’ve heard people say: ‘I want something that will kill anything but isn’t dangerous,’” said Gale Harding of the University of Idaho.

Gone are the days when you could drive to BLM land and dump and burn your chemicals. Now the EPA has regulations against keeping empty containers.

To legally use pesticides, a grower has to be certified; however, many may see getting licensed as just a hoop to jump through and don’t really understand safe chemical disposal.

There are consequences for failing to follow guidelines. These could range from fines from the EPA to environmental damage. In any case, to use most pesticides a grower has to sign an agreement not to misuse them. There are full classes to learn the rules, but here are some general guidelines to safe use and disposal of pesticides.


Read the Labels

Yes, it can be irritating to read all the fine print on the labels when it seems common sense. However, some products have different regulations than the general rule. Remember: when in doubt, go with what the label says.


Wear Proper Protection

This includes: long sleeves, long pants, shoes, facemask, socks and chemically resistant gloves (leather gloves do not count). Also, remember to not store chemical handling equipment with chemicals unless they are sealed in plastic bags.


Stay Away From Water Sources

Water contamination can be harmful to crop, animal, human and marine life. Applications about 50 feet from water sources and drains are considered safe.


Store Chemicals Properly

Keep chemicals in well-ventilated rooms, not touching other chemicals or in close proximity to herbicides.


Properly Dispose Of Chemicals

Most states have a Clean Sweep program allowing growers to drop off unused chemicals and containers. If it’s not provided in your area, check and see what is. Ask if any friends or neighbors could use left over chemicals on their crops.


Triple Rinse Containers After Use

Before disposing of a container, it is important to triple rinse. Following are the steps.


  • Be sure to wear proper protection.


  • Drain out the remaining chemical into a spray or other container.


  • Fill the container 10–20 percent with water or whatever cleaning solution you use.


  • Replace the cap and swirl the liquid around until every part of the container has been covered.


  • Dump the used water/fluid into a safe place like a spray container.


  • Repeat steps 3–5 twice (rinsing the container three times).


  • Either crunch or put a hole in the container to make it unusable.


  • Replace the cap and dispose of the container.


These are just a few rules to consider. More complete guidelines can be found in regular certification meetings and at Remember that keeping track of the little things in chemical safety is important. A good percentage of problems happen by simple oversight and carelessness.