What is a pesticide?
Why do we use pesticides?
How do I make sure I’m using pesticides safely?
What is the effect of pesticide use on me and my family?
What about my pets? Do I need to take precaution when using pesticides around my pets?
Who regulates pesticides and their use? How much testing is done before they are available to the public?
I hear people talk about using IPM in our schools. What is IPM and how does it work?
Do pesticides affect the environment?
Should I try to use organic pesticides?

Our experts answer the most common questions people have about pesticides and fertilizers and their use. If you have more to add to the list, please contact us.

What is a pesticide?

“Pesticide” can refer to any substance that is made to control or prevent any pest, including weeds, insects, rodents, fungus, and more. (Herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and rodentcides are all pesticides.)

These include common household products used to control ants, mice, and roaches, and products frequently used in the garden or lawn to control ragweed, poison ivy, and other weeds, as well as stinging and biting pests like wasps, ticks and mosquitoes.

Why do we use pesticides?

Insects, rodents, and weeds can threaten the health and well-being of our families and communities. Pesticides help protect us from diseases carried by insects (like West Nile virus and Lyme disease), illnesses caused by contact with rodent droppings, urine, or dander, or caused by poison ivy or oak and ragweed. The recent Zika virus public health emergency offers another example of the benefit effective pest control offers. Pesticides also protect personal and public property from destructive pests, like grubs.

How do I make sure I’m using pesticides safely?

Remember this: the label is the law. Reading and following directions will make sure the pesticide is used safely and will be effective in controlling any pest.

When dealing with an insect, rodent, weed, or other pest problem on your property, it’s important to choose right and use right by following these steps:

  1. Identify the problem: What is the insect, rodent, or weed infiltrating your surroundings?
  2. Select the right product: Choose a product that is designed to control the specific pest you are targeting. Questions? Ask a local professional or an extension agent or submit a question to us at debugthemyths@gmail.com.
  3. Prepare the area: Keep children and pets at a distance during applications and until the product dries, or as long as the product label suggests. Have absorbent materials nearby in case the product is spilled.
  4. Read and follow the label instructions: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the industry have worked together to make product labels easier to understand and follow. Be sure to follow directions about proper protective clothing, mixing solution, rinsing containers, and appropriate dosage levels. This is important when using any pesticides as the safety and effectiveness of both depend on proper use. Always wash your hands after applying a product.
  5. Do not overuse or underuse: Overuse can be hazardous, and underuse can help pests build up resistance to the pesticide, making treatment ineffective.

You can also hire a professional applicator to identify and treat your insect or weed problem.

What is the effect of pesticide use on me and my family?

Pesticides provide protection for you and your family against disease and infection caused by insects, rodents, and weeds, while also keeping your outdoor spaces accessible and enjoyable. It’s important to remember that pesticides are rigorously tested for their potential human health and environmental impact before they can be registered and sold for use. The pesticides available for use in your home have been determined by the EPA to have a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health. More details about the EPA’s testing process are available on the agency website.

What about my pets? Do I need to take precaution when using pesticides?

Just as pesticides help protect us from stinging and biting insects, pesticide products help create an enjoyable backyard experience for our pets.

As always, be sure to read and follow the label when applying pesticide products, which includes directions for proper storage and use. To protect your pet from backyard hazards, try the following:

  • Apply pesticides when pets are not in the yard. Wait until products have dried or granular dust has settled before letting your pet into the area that has been treated.
  • Remove or empty feeding bowls, water dishes, and bird baths before pesticide applications.
  • After treating lawns and outside areas, restrict pets from the areas until pesticides have dried and the danger of exposure has passed. Follow the restricted-entry interval (REI) as stated on the label.
  • Clean up after an application and store products out of pets’ reach.
  • Store all lawn care and gardening products properly — which includes keeping them out of pets’ reach.

Who regulates pesticides and their use? How much testing is done before they are available to the public?

Pesticides are rigorously tested for their potential human health and environmental impact before they can be registered and sold for use. The pesticides available for you to use in your home have been determined by the Environmental Protection Agency to have a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health. Product registration by the EPA can take up to 10 years and involves up to 120 different tests and studies that can take years to complete. More details about the EPA’s testing process are available on the agency website.

I hear people talk about using IPM in our schools. What is IPM and how does it work?

IPM stands for integrated pest management (IPM). IPM is a strategic system often used by schools for controlling pests that involves three main steps:

  1. Monitoring to identify when pests are present,
  2. Analysis of the risks involved with the pest’s presence.
  3. Initiating preventative or control steps to keep the pest at an acceptable tolerance level.

Basically, IPM creates a process for schools and others to follow to make sure they are making good decisions about pest control and pesticide use. Pesticides are an important tool in the IPM tool box to control harmful pests when they have exceeded appropriate thresholds.

Do pesticides affect the environment?

During the EPA review process all pesticides are rigorously tested for potential human and environmental impact before the product can be registered. Product registration by the EPA can take up to 10 years and involves up to 120 different tests and studies over the course of weeks, months, or even years. And once a product is registered, the EPA continues to study and test the pesticide to ensure its environmental safety. More details about the EPA’s testing process are available on the agency website.

Should I try to use organic pesticides?

We support the continued development and use of new products and solutions – organic or synthetic.

Organic pesticides are not always safer or better for the environment. They can be used safely, with the right training and education—but used in high concentrations needed to be effective for pest or weed control, they can be toxic to people, pets and aquatic ecosystems. Continued education about the proper use of any pesticide as part of an IPM approach is essential to the control of harmful pests and protection of our communities and waterways.

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