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California’s “Top Pesticide Blunders” Report Highlights Hazards

(Beyond Pesticides, April 22, 2009) The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released its “Top Pesticide Blunders” report to remind the public to avoid illness and injury by using household cleaning and gardening products that pose the least risk to their health and the environment. The blunders also include situations in which users of toxic products fail to comply with product labels.

“Disinfectants, mold and mildew cleaners, weed killers and pool chemicals are just a few of the many over-the-counter pesticide products available for home use,” DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam said. “As people begin their spring cleaning and gardening, they should select products that best target the problem and then follow the label instructions carefully to prevent accidents.” Beyond Pesticides adds that people should consider non-chemical approaches that manage unwanted insects and plants with prevention-oriented practices.

Ms. Warmerdam suggests the following precautions to prevent pesticide exposure in and around the home:

*Select products that pose the least risk to your health and the environment – do you really need a pesticide for the task?
*Never put pesticides in food or drink containers. Keep pesticides in their original containers so they are not mistaken for food or drink.
*Store pesticides properly to keep them away from children and adults who are unable to recognize pesticide containers.
*Do not mix bleach with ammonia or other cleansers because a toxic gas may be formed.

The Butte County incident and blunders below were drawn from 2007 illnesses and injuries reported to DPR. State privacy law protects their identities.

In San Diego County, a resident attempting to fix his home pool filter forgot which hose had the check-valve. He blew into one hose thinking he could tell which one had the valve and inhaled chlorine gas. He sought medical care after coughing and vomiting.

In Sacramento County, a teenage girl saw a mouse in her home and decided to use gopher bait to control the problem because she had seen her parents use it effectively against gophers in the yard. She said she read the label, but did not understand it. She poured about a handful of pellets into a corner of two bedrooms and waited in another room. Within two hours, she experienced a sharp pain behind her eyes, and tightness in her chest when she breathed in. She was taken to an emergency room for evaluation.

A Butte County man used a salt shaker to apply insecticidal dust on his dog for flea control. Later, he thought the salt shaker contained garlic salt and sprinkled the insecticidal dust on a bowl of chili. The man realized his mistake because the chili tasted strange and the beans were a gray color. He experienced some stomach discomfort and went to a hospital for treatment.

In Los Angeles County, an elderly woman spilled insecticidal powder on herself as she tried to open the container to use for roach control in her house. She apparently held the container over her head. She experienced “burning” and was taken to her doctor.

In Sacramento County, pest control company employees returned to air a house that had been fumigated three days earlier. They found a man asleep on the couch who had broken into and ransacked the house. He was taken to the hospital by paramedics and admitted in serious condition.

In Riverside County, a homeowner found a small plastic bottle of malathion leaking in his garage. He threw the bottle into his dumpster, where it spilled. A resident across the street experienced chest tightness and lightheadedness after smelling the pesticide and went for medical care. Two other neighbors reported symptoms, but declined care. The homeowner was found in violation for improperly disposing of a pesticide.

Incidents like these humanize recent data from DPR, which shows an increase in pesticide-related injuries and illness. In light of these dangerous side effects of pesticide use, DPR’s first tip, to use less- or non-toxic pest control methods, can protect you and your neighbors from possible harm. To learn more about how to control pests and maintain your garden without hazardous chemicals, visit our Alternatives Factsheets.


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