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Sarah Browning: Store pesticides safely at end of season
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Sarah Browning: Store pesticides safely at end of season

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It's important to store liquid and dry pesticides correctly during the winter to avoid accidental poisoning and to make sure the pesticides retain their effectiveness.

As the growing season draws to an end, and we put away our gardening equipment, it’s also important to store any remaining pesticide products properly to prevent contamination and maintain product effectiveness for next year. But even more important, being careless with pesticide storage is an open invitation to disaster in the form of a pesticide poisoning or spill.

Prevent accidental poisoning

Always store pesticides in their original packaging, whether that’s a bottle or bag, with the label attached. Using any other container is illegal. Never be tempted to pour small amounts of pesticide into another container. Pesticides in soft drink bottles, fruit jars, milk cartons, margarine tubs or glassware are a common cause of accidental poisonings.

Losing track of the original product package label is a serious problem for several reasons, but most importantly it’s easy in just a few short months to forget what product is in the unlabeled container. Plus, you now don’t have access to:

• toxicity warnings

• environment and other hazard information

• clean-up information in case of a spill

• medical instructions in case of a poisoning

• and rate information

Maintain product effectiveness

Some pesticides, particularly liquid products, lose effectiveness if exposed to freezing temperatures during winter storage in your unheated garage. Plus, expansion of frozen liquid pesticides can cause their container to crack or break, resulting in a dangerous leak or spill.

Dry pesticide formulations are not as sensitive to temperature but can be ruined by exposure to water. Keep dry product bags up off the floor where water can accumulate and protected from any overhead water drips.

Pesticides should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from heat or flame. Read the pesticide label and follow the required temperature storage guidelines. If products need to be stored indoors, make sure they are in a secure location or locked storage container, not accessible to children and pets.

Always store pesticides away from food, pet food, animal feed, seed, fertilizers and veterinary supplies.

Be ready for an emergency

Put together a pesticide spill kit and have it on hand in your pesticide storage area in case of an emergency. Your spill kit should include protective equipment, including chemical-resistant gloves, goggles and a coverall. Have clay-type kitty litter on hand (to soak up spilled liquid chemicals) and a leak-proof plastic bag or container to hold pesticide-contaminated kitty litter during clean up.

When a spill occurs, pour enough kitty litter on the spill so the liquid is completely absorbed. Then sweep or shovel the material into the plastic bag or container. Dispose of this material according to label directions.

If pesticide is spilled on a person’s body or clothing, all contaminated clothing should be removed as quickly as possible. Wash the affected areas thoroughly with soap and water. Launder contaminated clothing in hot water, using the highest water setting available, separately from any other family laundry. After washing, remove clothing from machine and run the empty machine through another cycle with hot water and detergent before laundering any other family clothing.

If clothing is heavily contaminated with concentrated pesticide, dispose of it.

In any pesticide contamination event, follow the label’s first aid treatment instructions. If there are additional concerns, seek medical attention or call Omaha Poison Control at (800) 222-1222.

Sarah Browning is an extension educator with Nebraska Extension. To ask a question or reach her, call 402-441-7180 or write to her at or 444 Cherrycreek Road, Lincoln, NE 68528.



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