chemcial safety

Safe Use of Pesticides and Alternatives to Pesticides

By Alex Gorsky

Growing up, I spent a majority of my time playing outside. On the weekends, my parents would join me in their garden. Sometimes they would spray pesticides on the garden and tell my friends and me to stay away. They didn’t tell me then, but if you do get exposed to pesticides you can have headaches, dizziness, muscle twitching, weakness, and nausea. Long-term or excessive exposure has been linked to cancer and reproductive & central nervous system effects. In the United States, eight out of ten households use pesticides both inside and outside of their homes.

Grandparents play a key role in keeping children safe by placing pesticides out of reach. Emergency room surveys suggest that children are more likely to be poisoned while visiting their grandparents, since pesticides and other poisons are less likely to be out of reach or have child-resistant closures.
Pesticides are not just dangerous for children. While older adults only account for 2.8% of reported poisoning incidents, they account for 5.9% of all cases with moderate to major medical outcomes and 28% of deaths.

There are some easy ways to reduce your exposure to pesticide hazards. The best guide for safe use of pesticides is to read the label. The label will have instructions for proper use of the pesticide, as well as tell how long you should stay away from the area. Another way to easily protect yourself is by never using pesticide containers to store other things. Once a container is empty, give the container to your community’s disposal program. They can properly dispose of the hazardous waste. Furthermore, avoid treating entire floors, walls or ceilings, and avoid spraying where you prepare or store your food.

To avoid getting overexposed to pesticides, the EPA recommends using a pest management strategy called “integrated pest management” or (IPM). IPM combines non-chemical control strategies with less toxic pesticide to minimize the risk to human health and the environment. For example, you can use traps or baits instead of sprays to control pests. By doing this, you can control pests while not causing harm to humans or the environment.

About the author: Alex Gorsky is an intern in the Office of Public Engagement at the EPA. He is a senior at Beloit College majoring in Environmental Studies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: US EPA at Inaugural U.S. Science & Engineering Festival – Safe Chemicals

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Maureen Gwinn

As someone who enjoys doing scientific outreach, the U.S. Science & Engineering Festival was like a dream come true! Kids interested in science, or parents who want their kids to be interested in science, flocking to the National Mall to learn more about science was an amazing opportunity to engage kids in something I love.

There were science-based performances, games and activities, all geared to showing the fascinating and fun side of science.  This festival was in response to the steadily decreasing leadership role of the U.S. in science, which the organizers hoped to change by stimulating an interest in science for kids at a young age.

For our part, the EPA brought some interactive modules to showcase the role of science in our work at the Agency.

Assessing the safety of chemicals is a big part of what we do at EPA, and we engaged kids to help us determine what caused the reactions when mixing simple, everyday chemicals (baking soda, rock salt, water).

Kids were amazed to see that mixing these simple chemicals together (along with a pH indicator) led to a change in temperature, created a gas and changed colors.  We set out to teach kids about the importance of understanding chemicals and how they interact with each other and the environment, and from their responses also showed them their potential to be future scientists.

About the Author: Maureen is a toxicologist with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, where she works in human health risk assessment to understand the toxicity of environmental chemicals. Maureen is also the K-12 Task Force lead for the Society of Toxicology, and often volunteers in education outreach.

Note: Give it a try! You can download instructions to try the “Baggie Science” demonstration

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.