IFAS News

University of Florida

Keep Your Home Safe during Pesticide Use

Topic(s): Environment, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, Food Safety, IFAS

Date: June 3, 2015

By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Source: Philip Koehler, 352-392-2484, pgk@ufl.edu

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida, with its tropical and subtropical environment, is a breeding ground for many pests in the home. Do you handle it yourself or get a pest management professional? Misconceptions about pesticides may keep you from tackling the job.

“Many people believe that pesticides are dangerous and cause a lot of poisonings, and that’s not necessarily true,” said Philip Koehler, professor of entomology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Poison control center statistics show that the number one cause of poisoning is analgesics. Pesticides come in at number nine on their list. There are a lot of other things such as medicines, make up and cleaning products that poison more people every year.”

A second myth is that over-the-counter pesticides are safer than ones used by pesticide operators, Koehler said. But, pest control operators use the same active ingredients that are sold in retail stores, he said. “The problem comes in when the homeowner wants to store leftover pesticide. Improper storage is really dangerous especially if it is just placed under the sink or on a shelf in the garage,” Koehler explained.

When a professional handles the treatment, he takes the leftover pesticide with him so the homeowner won’t have to store pesticide in the home, he said. While most pesticides will not poison a resident, improperly stored pesticide is dangerous for children who can accidentally eat or drink it, Koehler said.

What to do with old pesticide? The product will likely have a shelf life of more than two years. “It’s common for people to pour it on the ground, in the sink or in the toilet. That contaminates the water supply and hurts the environment,” Koehler said.  He suggests taking pesticide to the county toxic waste disposal program, where professionals will properly discard the product.

Koehler offered some tips:

  • Use baits or gels that come in syringes to exterminate pests like ants and cockroaches. “The industry has moved to baits that can be put in corners, cracks and crevices where roaches and ants live,” he said. “You don’t have to be worried about spraying a plate of food and contaminating it.”
  • Make sure you are using the right product for the right insect. “Residents can take the pest to a county extension office where there is an insect identification lab. The key is to know the pest you are trying to control and use appropriate measures.”
  • Store pesticides in an area where children cannot reach it. And when ready to dispose of it, call your county toxic waste disposal program for location, days and times of collection.
  • Educate yourself about pests and pest control. Many fact sheets are available on the University of Florida IFAS website for “featured creatures.”

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