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January 25, 1999

Pesticides Are Easy To Buy, But Difficult to Use

By Stuart Lieberman,
Esq Realty Times

If you can purchase it in the grocery store, how dangerous can it be? This is the attitude that Americans share about many products that are really potentially dangerous. In the case of pesticides, this is a mistaken belief. Pesticides can injure, and perhaps kill, more than just pests. Used or stored improperly, pesticides represent a threat to your family as well.

The threat is a real one. According to federal government statistics, in 1995 nearly 100,000 children nationwide were poisoned or exposed to household pesticides and chlorine. We are not talking about anything exotic: these are run of the mill products such as wasp sprays, roach poisons, kitchen cleaners and disinfectants, and flea and tick shampoos. Others belong on this list as well. Since you probably have some of these items in your home right now, it pays to make sure thay are being used and stored properly.

According to the EPA, almost half of the homes with children under age five have at least one pesticide that is stored in an unlocked cabinet that is less than four feet off the ground. And the number grows to 75% when you consider households without children. That is an important figure because 13% of child poisonings occur outside of the victim's home. Would you be able to live with this kind of avoidable, tragic accident?

Of course, we need pesticides, be them chemical or natural (non-toxic). Nobody wants to share an apartment with bugs or rats. But, these products must be used responsibly and must be carefully stored.

According to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, it is absolutely imperative that all pesticides be used in the manner set forth on the product label. Some pesticides should not be used near food, some require ventilation. Some require that you leave your house for a period after use.

These are not just suggestions. They are use requirements. And to protect your family's well being, you need to pay attention to them. Just because these products are so easy to purchase and look like our friends, does not mean that they won't turn on us in a second. So, really think about how these materials are being used.

If you have any pesticide that is leftover after use, it may have to be treated as a hazardous waste and disposed of in accordance with hazardous waste laws. This means you may not (and in all probability cannot) dump it down the drain or place it with your household trash. Call you local health department or the State for proper disposal information if you are in doubt.

If you need to store pesticides, all experts suggest that they be stored away from the reach of little children. Even if you do not have children, heed this advise because friends or relatives with children may visit sometime. And never store a pesticide in a food container, or in anything that looks like a food container. Children, and even adults, can make a deadly mistake if you do.

There has been much recent attention to the risks associated with some pesticide use. The Food Quality Protection Act, which became federal law in August 1996, requires greater consideration of health risks to children in determining whether pesticides are safe for home use. Recently, the National Research Council issued a report which called for for more stringent regulation of pesticides.

Non-toxic pest control companies are beginning to set up shop throughout the United States. One national company, Pestmaster Home Services, advertises "In many cases, we can manage household pests efficiently without spraying pesticides." Some other well known national companies often provide a non-toxic alternative approach for household pest management. Consumers may want to compare both approaches before deciding on a plan of attack.

Of course, one of the oldest pesticides is not toxic to humans at all. It is the fly swatter. One New Jersey company claims to have improved the fly swatter. It sells a device that resembles a dart gun called the "FlyShooter." According to the company, the Flyshooter sets off a dart web that whacks flies, bees and mosquitos. And probably little brothers as well!