Now that the garden season is winding down it’s time to clean up your garden supply storage area. It’s particularly important to examine all your pesticides to see what needs to be discarded and that everything is stored correctly. Gardeners use more pesticides than farmers and even those who garden organically often have organic pesticides on hand. These organic pesticides need to be handled just as carefully as conventional pesticides.
A pesticide is anything that kills something else. Pesticides include weed killers, insect killers and disease control products. They also include mosquito sprays for personal use flea, lice and tick control products for pets and livestock and poisons for rats and mice. Some fertilizers contain pesticides. All of these products have the potential for harm if used or stored improperly.
Once or twice a year you should go through your garden shed, garage or basement storage area and examine all pesticides. Make sure the containers are intact, and not leaking, torn or rusting out. Pesticides should be in their original containers, if not they need to be discarded. Pesticides may be good for one or two seasons if properly stored but any pesticides that have been around for more than 2 years should probably be discarded. Don’t buy pesticides in quantities that you won’t use up in two garden seasons.
Look for rotenone
If it’s been a while since you have examined the pesticides in your storage area its time to check the labels for pesticides that have been banned or recalled. One of the product ingredients you should be looking for is rotenone. This product is considered organic and was a very popular ingredient in home garden products. However as of 2012 there is no licensed or legal use of this product except by licensed applicators for killing fish.
After many years of research the use of rotenone has been strongly tied to a greatly increased risk of Parkinson’s disease among users. It has also been implicated in increasing the risk for some forms of cancer. It is very toxic to bees. Products with rotenone in them were still being sold this spring on line and by some stores who may have had product stored from previous years.
Rotenone was an ingredient in many garden insect killing products, usually in a dust form but also in some sprays and liquids. Flea and tick control products as well as poultry and livestock lice control products also contained rotenone. Products labeled organic are more likely to contain rotenone. Organic farmers have been banned from using rotenone on their crops for several years and it is time that the product is removed from home gardening also.
Other products to discard
If you are one of those people who bought and hoarded certain chemicals when you heard they were going to be taken off the market shame on you. It’s time to do the right thing and discard those things. And some people just let time go by, while never cleaning their pesticide stash, and have accumulated products that we know are no longer safe. It’s time for an inventory and clean up.
Here are some other products/chemical ingredients that you need to remove, lindane, chlordane, DDT, 2-4-5-T, silvex, ethel dibromide (EDB), PCP or Pentachlorophenol, ammonium sulphamate, atrazine, dichlorophen, dichlorprop, arsenic oxide, arsenic trioxide, carbofuran, copper arsenate, methyl parathion, tributyltin compounds, daminozide/alar, 2,3,4,5-Bis(2-butylene)tetrahydro-2-furaldehyde, mirex, endosulfan. This list is always being updated EPA and may not contain all banned chemicals. Some of these chemicals may be allowed in restricted use applications by licensed applicators.
In addition to the above home gardeners may want to consider removing products with carbaryl or Sevin. This chemical has been banned in Europe and Australia for many years. It is very toxic to bees and is considered to be a likely carcinogen (cancer causing agent) by the EPA and may be linked to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It may soon be banned in the US. Permethrin is another chemical banned in Europe and Australia that may soon be banned here and it is another chemical suspected of causing Parkinson’s disease. It is extremely toxic to cats.
If you find a product with a restricted or banned ingredient in it read the label directions for the proper disposal method. All pesticide labels are required to have this information. If you don’t have a label on the product look up the product on line for disposal information or talk to a local health department or Extension office. Some products require toxic waste disposal, the health department in your county should be able to direct you to a proper place for this. Never dump chemicals into drains or toilets unless the label says they can go there. And never dump them on the ground, down holes or old wells.
Storing pesticides correctly
If all of your pesticides are legal then they still must be stored correctly to be safe and remain effective. Once again read the label for storage instructions. If the product is not supposed to freeze then move it where it won’t freeze. Not only will improper storage make the pesticides ineffective, it could be a safety risk. If chemicals break down and form other compounds they can cause a fire or explosion.
It is also risky if packages break or leak and mix with other chemicals. This can cause hazardous gases, fires and explosions and some chemical combinations could prove deadly. The pesticide can also mix with other household products like cleaning fluids, gasoline, salt, and fertilizer to make dangerous combinations. Even plain water can cause chemical reactions in some products.
Always store liquid pesticides below dry products, including fertilizers, potting soil and other products, so that a leak or spill doesn’t contaminate the dry products. This doesn’t seem logical to most people because liquid containers are generally smaller but it is the safest option. Also storing any pesticides over your shoulder level risks that a spill or leak might get on your head or in your eyes, which are spots where pesticides are absorbed into the body quickly or which can cause blindness.
It’s a good idea to store all pesticides and other hazardous products in something that would catch spills, such as plastic tubs or even disposable aluminum baking pans. Broken packages of dry products can be put inside zip close plastic bags or large clear plastic trash bags. If the area where pesticides are stored has a dirt floor, chemicals could seep into the soil, contaminating it and possibly reaching the ground water. It is very important to have something under them to contain leaks and spills.
Some absorbent material like sand or kitty litter should be stored by pesticides to soak up spills. A broom and dustpan can be used to sweep the contaminated material up to be disposed of as the label suggests. Experts also suggest that pesticides be stored on metal shelving because over the years porous wood shelves can become very contaminated.
Of course you will store all pesticides out of the reach of children and pets. And never put pesticides in food containers, such as pop bottles or milk jugs. Children and pets may mistake them for the original products. Always store pesticides in their original container, with the label. If the label gets smudged or torn make sure the ingredients are written somewhere on the container. You may want to date the container too. If someone has a reaction to the pesticide, or is poisoned by it you will know what the product is and be able to give that info to the poison control center or emergency personnel.
Don’t store paper products, like towels or tissues with pesticides as these can absorb small spills and even vapors and become toxic. Clothing like boots, gloves, aprons, and hats should also be stored away from pesticides. Never store animal feed or seeds or bulbs with pesticides. Don’t store food like apples or potatoes near pesticides. Dry pesticides should be protected from rodent damage as rodents can carry and track pesticides to other locations where they may cause problems.
Remember that the pesticide label directions are not just recommendations, they are usually instructions for the legal use, handling and storage of pesticides and when you don’t follow those instructions you are breaking the law. Also remember that almost all pesticides, including those labeled organic, can be hazardous to you and the environment and treat them respectively and responsively.
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