Warning over chemicals in garden sheds

If you are storing lot of chemicals in your garden shed then you MUST read this article. The article was published in http://au.news.yahoo.com and I have re-published it without changing anything.

Is your garden shed harbouring an array of dangerous pesticides?

Do you wander in a daze down “chemical alley” in the hardware store, picking out fungicides, insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides or termiticides without fully comprehending exactly what you need?

Geoff Harcombe, senior scientific officer in the WA Health Department’s pesticide safety section, advises people to try to limit the quantity of pesticides they keep in their shed.

“It can be confusing because of the range of pesticides available, so people should seek advice from the retailer as to what would be the best pesticide for them and only buy the quantity required to do the job,” he said.

People often used only a portion of what they bought and the rest sat on a shelf in the garden shed for years, posing a potential hazard to young children and other members of the family not familiar with their use.

Mr Harcombe added: “Before you buy, you need to think ‘Do I really need one litre or can I manage with less?’ They would also save money because pesticides are expensive.

“People should also opt for the pesticide with the lowest toxicity to humans and pets for the job.

“A good guide is to choose those labelled ‘caution’ rather than ‘Poison’.”

Pet safety is also a big issue, according to Mr Harcombe. For example, small dogs had been known to eat snail pellets and rodenticides, resulting in serious injury to the animal, so it was important to keep all pesticides away from animals.

Similarly, it was vital to keep pesticides out of the reach of children and make sure they were always stored in their original container and not transferred to soft drink bottles or other containers.

Any mixing of chemicals should be done by firstly reading the label and wearing chemical resistant gloves and clothing and, where required, a respirator. Pesticides should be kept well away from children and pets.

“Carefully read the label even before buying them,” Mr Harcombe said.

Chemical splashes could irritate the skin and harm the eyes and, if any substances were spilled on the body or ingested, the Poisons Information Centre should be contacted immediately on 13 11 26 with the container to hand so that full information could be supplied.

“If you mix chemicals, use all that you have mixed,” Mr Harcombe said. “Go back over the weeds or, if you are spraying for insects or spiders, use all that you have mixed. Don’t leave chemicals in your sprayer and don’t tip leftover pesticide down the drain.”

Thankfully, the toxicity of many pesticides deteriorated over time and after two years they should be disposed of safely, Mr Harcombe said.

Although highly hazardous chemicals such as strychnine and arsenic were restricted to primary producers and licensed pest management technicians, some people had them in their sheds, having been given them by farming relatives or friends. These chemicals did not deteriorate over time and needed to be disposed of very carefully.

The options were to call the local council to check if it disposed of household hazardous waste or to use a private company providing the service. Putting them out with the rubbish posed a hazard, Mr Harcombe said.

An even better option for those who could afford it was to hire a licensed pest management technician to treat weeds, spiders, ants, termites and other pests. “That way, you are reducing the chemical load in the garden shed,” he said.

However, the licence details of technicians should always be checked to ensure they were current and had the appropriate endorsements.

“An alternative to using a herbicide to treat small areas of weeds is to use very hot water or simply pull them out,” Mr Harcombe said.

Mirella Goetzmann, environmental toxicologist with the WA Health Department, said that it was important with gardening products to always read and follow the mixing advice on the label.

“It would be wise to get advice on the toxicity of garden chemicals if you are not sure what you need, so the right chemical is used for the right purpose and whether alternatives are available,” she said.
Nicole Bijlsma, author of Healthy Home, Healthy Family, said that the best pest management strategy was to deprive pests of what they needed – shelter, moisture and food.

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