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Home > Ag Chemicals & Fertilizers > Pesticides > Reporting Pesticide Complaints > Pesticide & Fertilizer - Health & Safety FAQs > Pesticides & Safety

Pesticide and Fertilizer | Health & Safety FAQs

What are pesticides and are they safe?

Pesticides are substances that are used to control pests (such as insects, weeds, or mold). A pesticide may be a chemical, natural plant or animal product, or other substance (for example, a bacteria) that is used to control the growth of the pest or kill the pest. Many chemicals or pesticides pose some degree of risk to the user and the environment, even “organic or natural” pesticides. All pesticides are evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine the potential for harm before they are registered for use. The pesticide label on each product provides health risk information to the user and ways to protect the user and the environment from harm (injury or adverse effects). Label directions include a lot of information such as how much can be used (rate) and where the product can be used (site of application).

Certain pesticide applicators (farmers, pesticide dealer staff, building maintenance, and many others) receive special training in order to become certified applicators. Only certified applicators may purchase and apply certain pesticides with restricted uses. Situations that present greater risks are when pesticides are applied to or move (drift) into sites that are not intended to be treated which would be a non-labeled site; outdoor pesticides are illegally applied indoors; pesticides are applied in excess of their application rates; and restricted use pesticides are applied by unlicensed/untrained applicators.

The National Pesticide Information Center is an additional resource. Questions can be answered by calling 1-800-858-7378 (10 am-2 pm Central Time, Monday-Friday) or by visiting their website.

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