Insecticide Safety: How to prevent unnecessary exposure Back »

Written collaboratively by Adam Varenhorst, Patrick Wagner, and Amanda Bachmann.


Insecticide applications occur year-round to manage insect pests that would otherwise reduce crop yields, damage stored grain, or infest houses and other structures. Insecticides are applied to grain storage facilities to reduce grain contamination and protect the grain from insect pests. Applications of insecticides in urban environments, such as lawns, gardens, and home interiors, are intended to minimize insect pest activity that could potentially cause damage.

Know Your Insecticides
Pesticides, of which insecticides are a type, are classified as either general or restricted use. The products that can be purchased ‘over the counter’ at a big box store are those that are classified as general use. As the name implies, restricted use pesticides are not available to just anyone.

Get Licensed
Applying restricted use insecticides to reduce insect pests requires either a commercial pesticide applicator license or a private applicator certification card. These licenses must be kept up-to-date in order to legally purchase and apply any restricted use products. Commercial applicator licenses can be renewed either through testing at an approved site or by attending a commercial applicator training session. The purpose of these renewals is to ensure that individuals dealing with restricted use insecticides remain aware of the hazards associated with these products and the methods to ensure safe and appropriate use. If carelessness of use or misuse occurs, exposure to these products may lead to serious injury or death.

Follow Label Instructions
The most important thing to remember when working with insecticides is to always follow the label instructions. Labels contain important safety and allowed use information. Insecticide labels also provide the information regarding the proper personal protective equipment to wear when handling, mixing, loading, or applying the product. For most foliar applied insecticides, this list usually includes chemical resistant protective gloves, a respirator with organic vapor/acid gas cartridges, long shirt, long pants, and eye protection. For fumigants, the required personal protective equipment depends on the fumigant that is being used as well as the levels of the associated gas in the environment that they are being applied to. Fumigant personal protective equipment usually consists of dry cotton gloves, long-sleeve and loose fitting clothing, and either a canister type or a self-contained breathing apparatus.

In Summary
Insecticide products can be useful for the management of insect pests, especially when they are a part of an integrated pest management program. However, be sure follow label instructions and utilize caution, as misuse can prove harmful or even fatal.

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