Keep Pesticides and Other Chemicals in Their Original Containers to Prevent Poisonings

By Darlene Dinkins

Neighbors often save money by sharing things like tools and lawn and garden products. But, sometimes a neighbor’s good intentions may lead to tragic consequences – like when a neighbor shares a weed control product and gives it to you in an old water bottle. His good intentions could quickly turn dangerous if someone mistakes the bottle for a beverage.

Poison centers are all too familiar with accidental poisonings that occur after a person ingests a chemical that was transferred from its original container into a beverage container. In California, poison centers identified more than 1,400 cases of accidental poisoning caused by storage of non-food substances in soda bottles, unmarked bottles, cups, or glasses from 1998 to 2009. For example, there was the case of a 49-year-old man who reached for his coffee cup and took a sip while working in the barn one morning. He forgot that he had just poured an herbicide into his cup because he was concerned about the deterioration of the original pesticide bottle when he initially opened the container.

National Poison Prevention Week is March 16-22. It’s a time to raise awareness about simple steps that we can all take to prevent poisoning. I want to highlight the dangers of removing pesticides and other household chemicals from their original containers and storing them in bottles or cans that can be mistaken for beverages. One of the simplest ways to prevent poisoning is to always keep products in their original containers. Product labels contain valuable use instructions, important precautions, and first aid information that is needed in case of an emergency.

Take action to prevent a poisoning from occurring in your home:

  • Post the Poison Control Center national helpline number, 1-800-222-1222, near your phone or program the number into your phone’s speed dial feature.
  •  Read the product label first before using a product and follow the directions to the letter.
  •  Never transfer pesticides and other household chemical products to containers that may be mistaken for food or beverages.
  • Don’t use empty pesticide containers to store anything else. Even if you wash the container, it could still contain residues of the pesticide and could hurt someone.
  • Seal products after each use and store them out of children’s reach.
  • If you use mouse or rat poison, use products with tamper-resistant bait stations to protect children and pets.
  • Remove children, pets, and toys before applying pesticides either inside or outside your home.
  • Follow label directions to determine when children and pets can re-enter the area that has been treated.

Poisoning incidents are preventable. Take these steps today and help us raise awareness of how to prevent poisonings and exposures to household cleaners and pesticides.

About the author: Darlene Dinkins is in Communications Services Branch of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Darlene represents EPA on the Poison Prevention Week Council, which promotes National Poison Prevention Week, and distributes the Council’s materials and messages.