The Dangers of Lawn Chemicals at Home

By Randy DeVaul, RSHEP

[June 13, 2006]

Each year you paint your yard with all those lawn chemicals to feed the grass and kill grass-destroying weeds and bugs. Remember these chemicals are designed to kill things, so make sure they don't kill you, your children, your pets, or your neighbors.

Fertilizer makes grass thick and green; herbicides and pesticides control unsightly weeds and lawn-destroying insects. If handled or stored incorrectly, these products create real safety concerns. I know it's a 'guy thing' to not worry about directions, but it's important to read and follow label directions carefully. The greatest concern for children and pets is pesticides, which are more toxic than fertilizers and herbicides. When used correctly, they don't pose any serious harm. But you have to know how to use them correctly. Again, read the label!

The most dangerous forms of pesticides are those that attract pests. The pests eat the peanut-butter-smelling pellets, and then die. That's why they call it 'bait.' You don't want to 'bait' your kids, your extended family, or your pets. When using these pesticides, make the areas inaccessible to kids and companion animals.

Protect your hands with the proper gloves and your eyes with goggles. Keep a separate set of tools to mix and apply pesticides. These include measuring spoons, cups, and stirring paddles. Use plastic or metal items, not glass or wood. Open and mix pesticides in well-ventilated spaces. Mix only the amount you will use and use all that you mix.

Use only the amount of pesticide needed for the area. Applying all of the killer juice in your small front yard that is intended for a farmer's field will kill a lot more than your pests. Don't apply pesticides when it is windy. Don't spray overhead, such as when you treat tree branches, building eaves or ceilings. Don't eat, drink or use tobacco when you are applying pesticides.

Clean up when you are through, including yourself. Don't take these chemicals into your house or risk getting them in or on your body. Store products where pets and children cannot get to them, such as high on a shelf in the garage or locked storage shed.

Never reuse an empty pesticide container and don't place leftovers into other containers. Children may mistake them for a drink. Store pesticides separately from paints, solvents and fuels, especially gasoline. Store bottles and other containers of pesticides on a nonabsorbent surface or place in plastic trays or pans. This helps to keep them organized, keep them from falling and breaking, and will catch leaks. Write the date you opened the container on the container.

The directions for pesticide container disposal differ from product to product. Household pesticide containers may NOT be recycled in most community recycle programs. Do not burn, incinerate, or puncture aerosol containers.

By reading the directions on labels and using products correctly, you'll have a nice lawn that you, your children, and your pets will enjoy while remaining safe at home.

[Editor's note: It is a violation of Federal Law to use herbicides, pesticides, etc. in a manner other than is prescribed in the instructions on the original container's labeling.]

Randy DeVaul is an internationally published writer and author from Chester, VA. With more than 20 years in safety and emergency response services, he has authored three performance-based safety books and is now writing The Ultimate Home Survival Guide: Protecting Your Family In and From Your Home. Comments welcome at

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