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Pesticides – are they safe?

The most common question asked by our customers is whether the pesticides we use in their homes and places of business are safe to use. Before we answer this question though, we will define what pesticides are and what they are used for.

Pesticides is a term applied to a range of chemical products that are used to control pests. They can take the form of a solid, liquid, powder, gel or spray. They target pests, which we define as any animal or plant that can cause harm to humans, food and to our living conditions. Our business activity is focused on the management of pest animals. The most common pests we encounter in our daily activities include:

  • Ants;
  • Bed bugs;
  • Bees;
  • Birds;
  • Cockroaches;
  • Fleas;
  • Flies;
  • Mice;
  • Mosquitoes;
  • Possums;
  • Rats;
  • Silverfish;
  • Snakes;
  • Spiders;
  • Stored product pests;
  • Termites; &
  • Wasps.

There are several different types of pesticides. The types we most commonly use include:

Insecticides – for control of insects and arthropods;

Termiticides – for control of termites;

Rodenticides – for control of rodents such as rats and mice; &

Avicides – for control of birds.

We have a responsibility to ensure that the transport, storage, use and disposal of pesticides is conducted safely so as not to endanger our own health and safety and that of others. There are several laws that govern our industry and to assist in ensuring our understanding of, and compliance with these laws, the Victorian Government has prepared a document entitled Guidelines for the safe use of pesticides in non-agricultural workplaces. These guidelines are comprehensive and you can have peace of mind that our licensed technicians are familiar with the guidelines and follow them to the letter.

Now we will discuss whether the pesticides we use in your homes and places of business are safe to use. Initially, we will stipulate that the pesticides we use have all been approved and registered for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). We will also stipulate that we use pesticides only as a last resort as part of our integrated pest management approach.

There is no denying, though, that pesticides are toxic. They have the intention of killing, repelling or inhibiting the reproduction or growth of their target. However, if used as directed, no harm to humans or the environment should result. We are very familiar with the products that we use as each product has a label that provides instructions for its safe use. Warnings are also attached to the label that advises us how to prevent harmful exposures. Furthermore, each product has an applicable material safety data sheet (MSDS), which provides more detailed safety information.

If a pesticide is required, we select a product that is effective against your particular pest, yet still poses the least risk to human health and the environment. We then select the appropriate application equipment. The product is then measured and diluted to the required concentrate level. The pesticide is then applied with the intent to minimise environmental contamination.
Before we apply pesticides, we always:

  • Identify hazards;
  • Assess risks;
  • Control these risks;
  • Select the appropriate product;
  • Read the label and MSDS;
  • Wear personal protective equipment;
  • Assess weather conditions;
  • Consider the possibility of spray drift; &
  • Consider pesticide runoff.

The most common risk is the presence of humans and pets during a treatment. We remove this risk by ensuing that the property is vacated for a set time, which is known as the re-entry period. A property is usually safe to re-enter after the product used has sufficiently dried. The type of product, the prevailing weather conditions and any available climate control options will determine the re-entry period.

The threat of pesticide poisoning if not used responsibly is a real possibility. Exposure to pesticides may result in poisoning shortly after a single exposure (acute poisoning) or gradually after repeated exposure (chronic poisoning).

Symptoms of acute poisoning include:

  • Headache;
  • Dizziness;
  • Nausea, vomiting & diarrhoea;
  • Stomach cramps;
  • Blurred vision & watery eyes; &
  • Sweating & excessive saliva.

Symptoms of chronic poisoning include:

  • Fatigue;
  • Muscle weakness;
  • Lapses in concentration & forgetfulness; &
  • Generally feeling unwell.

If you or someone you know is displaying symptoms of pesticide poisoning you should:

  • Contact triple zero (000);
  • Contact a medical doctor;
  • Contact the Victorian Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

In conclusion, the use of pesticides should be left to a technician licensed to use that particular pesticide. We are experienced in the use of these products and we are acutely aware of how to minimise harm to ourselves, others and the environment. If used according to the label, no harm should come about after use of a pesticide. If you require any further information you can contact us by calling 1300 665 573.