State Health Commissioner Stresses Importance of Careful Pest Control Practices

ALBANY (July 1, 2004) - New York State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., today reminded New Yorkers to take precautions to reduce their potential health risks from exposure to pesticides by using them responsibly and limiting the use of these chemicals whenever possible.

"It is important for people to give careful consideration to the use of chemical pesticides before using them," Dr. Novello said. "It is also critical that people follow manufacturer’s directions carefully to prevent their exposure to pesticides. The improper storage, application or disposal of pesticides present potential health risks to the entire family, especially children."

"Uninformed or improper use of pesticides can threaten both the environment and human health," said Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty. "When using pesticides it is vital to understand the type of pesticide that is needed for the extermination of each specific pest to avoid unnecessary or excessive use of these chemicals."

The simplest way to reduce potential health risks from pesticides is to limit their use. In many situations, it is possible to eliminate or reduce the pest problem without using chemical pesticides. The following points may help you keep pest populations at a manageable level while minimizing the use of pesticides:

  • Prevent pest problems by cleaning house, yard and garden to remove places where pests can live and get food and water. Keep pests outdoors by making sure that screens are in good condition, by sealing cracks and holes in your foundation and siding, and by cutting vegetation back so it doesn’t touch your house;
  • Regularly "scout" your home and property for pest problems. Identify the pest and the extent of infestation if a pest problem arises and determine whether management measures are needed; and
  • Determine whether chemical pesticides are needed. First try using non-chemical management methods, such as predators and parasites (like ladybugs, nematodes, etc.) or physical methods (like hand weeding, mulching, setting traps or using a fly swatter).

If a pesticide product is needed, choose one that is specific for the pest you have, and is also in the proper form (bait, spray, etc.) to effectively deliver it to the pest. If chemical pesticides are used, they must be mixed, applied, stored and disposed of properly. To reduce storage and disposal problems, the least amount of pesticide practical for the job should be purchased. The directions on pesticide labels should be carefully followed. Do not increase or reduce the use rate of application or use the product for purposes other than those on the label. Always keep pesticides in their original containers with their original labeling and store them apart from family medicines and toiletries.

Pesticides should be stored in locked cabinets if possible. When it comes time to dispose of unused pesticides, do not pour them down the sink, toilet, sewer drain or onto the ground. Instead, residents should take advantage of household hazardous waste collection programs available in many communities.

Dr. Novello offered these other recommendations for reducing the risk of pesticide-related health effects:

  • Never smoke or eat while handling pesticide;
  • Wear protective clothing as recommended on the pesticide product label. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, rubber gloves and shoes, eye protection and dust/mist filtering mask helps protect you from exposure while applying pesticides;
  • Mix or dilute pesticides outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Mix only the amount needed for the immediate job. Never use the same measuring cups and spoons used for pesticides to prepare food, even if washed;
  • Keep children, pets and toys away from areas where pesticides are mixed and applied until the pesticide has dried or for as long as is stated on the label;
  • Avoid broadcast or total release applications indoors when possible. Do not let pesticides contaminate food or food preparation surfaces. Ventilate thoroughly after any indoor application;
  • Clean up spills promptly according to label directions. Generally, liquid pesticide spills can be sprinkled with sawdust, cat litter or vermiculite and swept into a plastic bag for proper disposal in an outdoor trash can;
  • Wash exposed skin; rinse gloves, shoes or boots; change clothes after applying pesticides. Wash clothes soiled with pesticides separately from other laundry in hot water and detergent.

Individuals who experience health symptoms after being exposed to a pesticide should immediately contact their primary care physician or a poison control center. If possible, the patient should have the pesticide product label available when contacting his or her doctor or a local poison control center.

For information about reducing exposure to and appropriate use of pesticides: consumer may visit the State Health Department's website at http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/pests/reduce.htm. Consumers may also contact the National Pesticide Information Canter at 1-800-858-7378.