Safety issues surrounding the use of pesticides are not solely the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency, instead homeowners need to rely on adherence to application instructions and their own common sense.

What are pesticides? A "pesticide" can be defined as an agent used to destroy something which resembles a pest in destructiveness; especially: a plant or animal detrimental to humans or human concerns (as agriculture or livestock production).

I don't personally like most pesticides. They seem to me a necessary evil. I believe that there is a place in agriculture and perhaps beyond for a limited, appropriate use of pesticides.

But how many people do you think really read pesticide warning labels when they apply pesticides on their lawns or gardens? How many homeowners do you believe really appreciate the seriousness of the product that they are using at their homes when they are killing grubs or dandelions?

There seem to be two main issues surrounding pesticides:

  • Proper and safe use of the products now
  • The effect the products will have in the future.

When you apply pesticides to your lawn or into your garden, they don't stay just there. They either go into the ground or they run off onto our streets, which could ultimately run into our streams, rivers, and oceans.

There is a general apathy that comes over people when they make a purchase at a local home improvement store. There seems to be the assumption that if they are buying a product that thousands of other people are picking off of the shelf as well, then it must be safe. But this apathy could have some very adverse effects. Pesticides are designed to exterminate living things, but pesticides don't discriminate. They can kill pets or other small creatures (I'll leave this to your imagination) just as easily.

Also, the consumer needs to look into the long term effects of using pesticides. We need only look a decade or so back into our past to see how the use of such commonplace chemicals as DDT effected our health and environment. I live in New Jersey and unfortunately we have a high occurrence of cancers. And while we are always told that the number of cancers is statistically normal, no one really thinks that it is normal. What environmental issues could be contributing to this; could the use of pesticides be one of them?

There is substantial evidence that pesticides are harmful. Pesticides can hurt people, and this generally happens when the pesticide is used improperly.

In the United States it is the Environmental Protection Agency who plays a primary role in determining what pesticides are safe to the human population. The EPA says that there are more than 865 active ingredients that are registered pesticides. They are mixed into thousands of products that are available to the public, many at our local home improvement centers.

The EPA relies on standard risk assessment procedures to determine which pesticides are safe enough to be sold.

  • Identification of potential health effects that may result from pesticide exposure. This can range from minor irritations to cancers or birth defects.
  • Determination of the dose of pesticide necessary to pose a risk.
  • Exposure assessment. How could humans be exposed? Through inhalation, contact, or digestion?
  • Calculation of a risk characterization. In a normal application, what is the likelihood that a product can harm persons or pets?

What can you do? Follow those directions religiously. And whenever possible, look for nonpoisonous alternatives to address the problem at hand. There are many of these alternatives that are commercially and readily available.

Do your share. Don't apathetically use any product or think that the effects are somebody else's problem. Be aware of what you are using and how it may effect you now and generations in the future.

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