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Read the pesticide label: It’s serious business, and it’s the law

newspaperRecently, an estimated 50,000 bumblebees were killed in Wilsonville, Ore., after a commercial pesticide applicator treated blooming linden trees with a powerful insecticide in an effort to control aphids. Although the incident is still under investigation, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service (VDACS) reminds everyone who uses pesticides, either individual homeowners or professional applicators, of the importance of reading and following the instructions for use on the pesticide label.

Pesticides include a broad group of chemicals and substances that are used to manage undesirable insects, weeds, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Regardless of their mode of action, before pesticides can be sold, they must undergo a registration process with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The EPA reviews scientific data to determine the potential effects a pesticide may have on humans, animals and the environment. The instructions and related precautions that appear on the pesticide label are intended to protect the user, other people, animals and the surrounding environment by minimizing the potential risk of exposure to the pesticide. The likelihood of an incident like the bumblebee kill in Oregon is minimized when users follow the directions on the label.

Every pesticide reviewed and registered by the EPA contains the following statement: “It is a violation of federal law to use a pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” That federal law is the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In addition to violating FIFRA, failure to use a pesticide according to its label could also constitute a violation of the Virginia Pesticide Control Act. Both the federal and the Virginia pesticide laws provide for civil or criminal penalties for violations.

What are the risks of not reading and following the label?

·   Human Injury, Disease or Death – One of the greatest concerns with the application of pesticides in a manner that is inconsistent with label directions is the potential for human injury, disease or even death to those making the pesticide application and to bystanders as well. The exposure could occur as a result of uncontrolled drift, equipment leakage, over-application of product, applications during adverse weather, uses on target pests other than those for which the product is intended or when allowing access to treated areas while the pesticide is still wet.

·   Environmental Contamination and Pollution – Environmental contamination is another potential concern when applicators do not follow the pesticide label directions. Pesticides intended for outdoor use typically have an environmental hazards section that provides information about how to prevent damage to the environment and wildlife, including bees.

·   Economic Loss and Property Damage – Economic loss and property damage can occur by either over-application of a pesticide or, in some cases, under-application. Pesticide misuse could also lead to legal action if personal, property or environmental damage occurs. Economic loss and property damage also may occur when applicators apply pesticides to sites not listed on the label or if the applicators allow the pesticide to drift. Applicators must heed label precautions to keep pesticides away from desirable plants, food crops and non-target sites such as neighboring properties.

To learn more about the proper use of pesticides, visit the Virginia Pesticide Safety website atvapesticidesafety.com. This site is maintained by VDACS’ Office of Pesticide Services. In addition to information regarding the proper use of pesticides, the website also contains information about common and seasonal home, lawn, and garden pests, as well as options for managing those pests.

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