Mother Nature can use a little helping hand now and again, especially when it comes to making sure your garden flowers bloom and vegetables thrive. And while pesticides can be a blessing, they need to be used responsibly.

The most important thing to understand is to use them correctly. A specialist from the National Pesticide Information Center, which operates as a cooperative between Oregon State University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, advised that not reading the label or misunderstanding it can be a dangerous mistake.

Read the label and stay safe

When working with potentially dangerous chemicals, you need to know exactly what you’re doing. For example, if you’re working with a concentrate, how much do you actually dilute the substance? Having the right information can also provide necessary clarification on the weather conditions that may prohibit application: Rain could cause it to be washed away, wind may blow it to another area, and if it’s too hot, it could evaporate.

Pesticides also may call for only certain use situations. For example, certain insecticides are to only be used on leaves, anywhere else and it may become a health concern, even if the item has low toxicity.

Reading the label can also provide guidelines about what protective equipment should be worn. Some pesticides require you to wear goggles, gloves and closed-toe shoes to minimize exposure. Contact with a pesticide can be as minor as nasal irritation and burning or tingling of the skin. But consequences could also be serious or even fatal, especially for children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.

What to do when things go wrong

If you’re overexposed to a dangerous pesticide, it’s important to know what to do, and the label may have valuable information for you. As a general rule for skin or eye exposure, rinse the affected area with cool water to help minimize contact.

Ingestion of a pesticide makes treatment a bit trickier, but the first step remains to check the label. Some pesticides may require you to drink water to dilute the toxin, but with others, drinking water may cause your exposure to worsen. If you have questions, contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222. The staff on hand is medically trained and they will surely ask you to have the product’s label nearby so you can answer any questions.

Remember, when in doubt, check the label and make sure you understand it.

SafeBee Top Three

  1. Always read the label.
  2. Follow all of the product's safety guidelines and use specifications.
  3. Call Poison Control if you come into contact with a pesticide and don't know the best way to seek treatment.