Protect Yourself and Others
Pesticides should always be stored off of the ground to reduce the chances of floodwaters damaging the containers and potentially contaminating the storage area (or other objects stored there). If a recent storm resulted in water damage to a pesticide container in your home, follow these steps.
- Keep children and pets away from the area.
- Make sure the area where you're working is well-ventilated.
- When handling damaged pesticide containers or cleaning pesticide-contaminated surfaces, always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) in case of pesticide spills or splashes:
- Rubber gloves (preferably chemical-resistant gloves).
- Goggles or at least safety glasses with side shields to protect your eyes.
- A respirator such as an air-filtering respirator or at least a particle-filtering mask such as an "N-95" dust mask.
- A minimum of a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. A rubberized apron (if available) can protect your clothing from pesticides. As a last resort, cut holes in the top and sides of a large trash bag and wear that over your clothes. While it may be hot, it will help protect you from the chemicals that you're handling.
- If there is standing water in the area where you store your pesticides, wear rubber boots or waders. Pesticide-contaminated water will soak into sneakers, ordinary shoes, work shoes, and even water-resistant work boots and then be absorbed through your clothing and skin.
- More information about PPE is available at Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Pesticide Handling and Cleanup
- Never pour pesticides down a sink drain, toilet, or storm drain.
- Spilled solid (dry) pesticides (granular, dust, or powder):
- Collect them and, if possible, put them back in the original containers. Be sure to wear a respirator when sweeping or scooping up dry materials that can easily become airborne. Uncontaminated useable products should be stored temporarily in a "safe" location (see step 8). It can be applied to an appropriate site (i.e., one listed on the product label). If you don’t think that the chemical is useable, place it in a closable container or plastic trash bag and then dispose of it.
- Place damaged paper bags or cardboard boxes that contain pesticides in garbage bags. Seal and label the garbage bags as to their contents and place the bag in a trash can. Do not put bags containing pesticides in with your other trash unless you are allowed to dispose of them together.
- Spilled liquid pesticides - Soak up spilled liquid pesticides with clay-based cat litter or another absorbent material. Shovel the litter into a garbage bag for appropriate disposal. Be sure to label the bag.
- If you must transfer a pesticide to another container for disposal, clearly label this container with its contents. Write the following information on the container: the brand name (e.g. "Amdro Fire Ant Bait") and the active ingredient (e.g. "Hydramethylnon") and preferably the EPA registration number (e.g. 241-322) with a waterproof marker or "wax pencil."
- NOTE: Never transfer pesticides to non-pesticide containers except for immediate use or disposal. Never use food containers (e.g., empty milk or beverage bottles) for storing pesticides. Someone may accidentally drink the contents.
- Aerosol insecticides - Discard rusted or damaged aerosol cans, following the product label instructions. Be extremely careful handling cans that are dented or have damaged or missing "actuators" (nozzles) because they may accidentally discharge. In many cases, you can wrap the container in newspaper and discard it with your regular trash, but check with your trash collection agency first.
- Liquid pesticides in undamaged plastic bottles should be salvageable. Some pesticides are water insoluble and turn milky-white when water is added. Any pesticide that you suspect is contaminated should be discarded when possible, rather than stored.
- If the pesticide container label is damaged or lost, try to get another copy of the label or write at least the name of the product on the container. Don’t rely on your memory to recall weeks or months later what chemical is in the container or how it is applied.
- Check with your municipal or private waste collection office about disposing of full or partially filled pesticide containers with your regular trash. A better choice is to take damaged or contaminated pesticides to an approved hazardous household chemicals collection or disposal site. If you do not know where it is located, contact your N.C. Cooperative Extension center.
- If you can’t dispose of damaged pesticide containers immediately, place them in a secure area where children, pets, and wild animals cannot reach them.
Equipment Cleanup, Safety & Precautions
- Clean your broom, shovel, and other pesticide-contaminated clean-up tools thoroughly with water before using them for any other work. Because it is impossible to remove all pesticide residues from some tools, you should consider discarding them.
- Thoroughly rinse off rubber gloves and boots worn while handling damaged pesticide containers or standing in contaminated water. If you touch water faucets, hoses or other surfaces while wearing the gloves, make sure you rinse off these areas as well.
- If you spill pesticides on your skin or clothing:
- Remove pesticide-saturated clothing immediately. Shower or rinse contaminated areas of skin thoroughly.
- Put on clean clothing.
- Do not reuse contaminated clothes without first washing them. Severely contaminated clothing/gear should be discarded.
- Never wash pesticide-contaminated clothing with regular laundry. Wash contaminated clothing alone in the washing machine using hot water. Line-dry (preferably outdoors). Do not put these items into the dryer as this can contaminate the dryer drum. Be sure to run a rinse-cycle of water in the empty washing machine before washing any other laundry.
- If you start feeling dizzy or ill after handling pesticides, go immediately to a hospital emergency room or call the North Carolina Poison Control Center at 1-800-84-TOXIN (800-848-6946). If possible, copy down the name(s) of the pesticide(s) that you’ve been handling. It will greatly assist the physicians and Poison Control Center in helping you in this emergency.
For More Information
For more information about disposing of empty containers and unused pesticides, you can contact the Pesticide Section of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services at 919-733-3556.
For more information on disaster preparedness and recovery visit the NC Disaster Information Center.
Prepared by NC State Extension specialists.
Publication date: Sept. 16, 2018
Revised: July 12, 2023
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