Using Pesticides Safely

You can minimize risks associated with pesticides by choosing what you use carefully, and using it properly. Pesticide is not a dirty word!  But before you spray any plants you really should know what you are dealing with and treat it accordingly. Some chemicals are very safe; but others require a mask, gloves and perhaps other protective clothing. Whatever you spray, don't do silly things like spraying into the wind and having the chemical blow back over you.


What is commonly sprayed in Winter

Spray deciduous fruit trees with winter oil after pruning to control scale, mites and brown rot. Never spray winter oils on evergreen plants.

Spray peaches and nectarines with Bordeaux or lime sulphur to control peach leaf curl when the buds start to swell (around late July).

Spray roses with white oil to control rose scale.


Fact - Some Pesticides are not even as poisonous as common salt!




It seems such an obvious thing to say, but so often we get lazy and take things for granted.

You can even get caught when you buy a product you think you already know. The manufacturer might change the ingredients or you might accidentally buy a container with the same brand name, but with a higher concentration of the active ingredient.





Some chemicals are very toxic, and yet they break down to relatively harmless substances quickly.

This type of pesticide will kill very effectively. If you get poisoned, it may make you very sick, but within a short period, the illness goes and there are few if any, residual effects.


Other chemicals are nowhere near as toxic but they do not break down. Some can stay within the body, or in the environment for decades or even centuries. Poisoning with this type of chemical might only cause mild effects … but a second poisoning years later, can add to the dose that was sitting in the body from years before.

Long-lasting poisons like this can eventually cause irreparable damage.



Do You Understand LD50?


The standard measurement for a pesticide’s toxicity is LD50 (ie. Lethal Dose 50%). This measurement is based upon experiments to determine what quantity of chemical is required to kill 50% of test animals. Oral LD50 refers to the lethal dose if taken through the mouth. Dermal LD50 refers to the lethal dose if absorbed through the skin.

If the LD50 is low, it is more poisonous. Pyrethrin for example has an oral LD50 of 584-900 and a dermal LD50 of over 1500.

eg: Arsenic trioxide has an oral LD50 of 34 to 64.


ONLY use chemicals when actually needed!

Use the correct chemical for the job at hand, if unsure; seek advice.

Use protective clothing at ALL times (ie. gloves, eye guards, masks, overalls).

Use the correct pesticide application equipment.

Don't spray on windy or very hot days!!!!

Warn other people in the area that you are going to spray (or have just sprayed).

Should chemical come in contact with naked skin, wash immediately in soap and water.

Wash out all spray equipment thoroughly when finished.

Do not eat or smoke while spraying.

Wash all protective clothing thoroughly after spraying.

Wash yourself thoroughly after spraying especially the hands.

Store spray equipment and chemicals in a safe, locked place.

Dispose of empty pesticide containers according to the label instructions.

Record all details of your spraying in case of health problems occurring later on. A record of what chemicals, the amounts used and when you used them may prove invaluable to medical staff.




When mixing chemicals, first read the label or booklet supplied with the chemical. It is advised to do the mixing in a well-ventilated area that has sufficient room to do the task. Wear a facemask, protective gloves, safety goggles and long sleeved clothes.


Always add water into the container before you add the chemical. Most home garden chemicals these days come with measuring devices (usually the cap). This allows the home gardener to save time and avoid the chance of mixing chemicals.


Once the chemical has been poured into the mixing chamber, ensure the lid is securely reattached and the chemical concentrate is safely out of the way.




Wettable powders and water-dispersing liquids aid in the application of pesticides. They need regular and thorough agitation otherwise they may separate out from the pesticide mix. The easiest way for the home gardener to agitate their spray system is to shake it.


The correct usage of chemicals is vital. Follow the recommendation on each product as to how it should be mixed, sprayed and cleaned. The concentration is usually stated as the dilution rate. If you do not follow this as stated then it is highly likely that the chemical may not work to its optimum efficiency.





All pesticides, in fact all household chemicals, should be stored in a lockable cupboard in a cool, well-ventilated position. Ideally this should be in a shed or storage cabinet away from the house or other buildings, particularly if the chemicals are highly flammable. Each container should be clearly labelled and under no circumstance should any leftover chemical by stored in an old soft drink container.


In some states of Australia there are regulations governing the storage of flammable and agricultural chemicals. Empty chemical containers must also be disposed of safely. Call your local council, or state agricultural department to obtain the relevant information.





If poisoning occurs, read the label carefully. For this reason, NEVER place chemicals in any container other than that which it was supplied in!


Some chemicals will recommend inducing vomiting while others may not. If the label does not have sufficient information, immediately contact the Poison Information Hotline in your state immediately. Have the phone number at hand before ever starting to use chemicals.




Keep bystanders well away from area.

Wear protective clothing and do not smoke, eat or drink during clean up.

Position leaking containers in such a manner that they no longer leak.

Sweep up or shovel spilled powder, or pump spilled liquid into a well-labelled container (labelled spill residue) to be held pending instructions from the manufacturer.

Contain liquid spills by forming a dam of soil or sand around the liquid and add sand or soil progressively to absorb excess liquid. Shovel and remove all residue/sand mixture into a container (labelled spill residue) then sweep area.

For powder spills, clean area with water, then shovel on sand or soil to absorb up the liquid. Sweep up the sand or soil and dispose of in the labelled container.

Clean spill area with sodium hypochlorite solution (bleach) and allow to stand for 30 minutes. Hose down the area with water.

Dispose of residue mixture and remaining powder or liquid following health regulations.

Remove clothing and protective gear. Wash clothing and skin using soap and water.


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