“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows,” said Doug Larson, a columnist from years past. For that reason, many people will attempt to annihilate these pesky plants during the growing season.
By Lori Kesinger
Weeds most often grow where they are unwanted such as in lawns, gardens and flowerbeds. Physical removal of weeds often requires strenuous digging and pulling by hand. So many people turn to herbicides, commonly known as weed killers, as an easy alternative. Chemical weed killers are simple to apply and effective but they also carry risks many consumers are unaware of.
The chemicals used in weed killers can cause damage to the health of people who come in contact with them. Skin irritations are most common when a person comes in contact with an herbicide, and are most likely to happen on exposed areas. Some chemicals may even burn the skin. Inhaling or swallowing an herbicide may cause illness or even death, depending on the amount, type and age of the person.
Children and infants are at a higher risk for illnesses from herbicides than adults. According to the EPA, because children are still developing, their immune systems are less able to protect them from herbicide damage. Children are also more likely to play in areas exposing them to chemicals, such as playing on a lawn. Mild exposure can result in complaints of dizziness and nausea. Herbicides may also cause neurological and developmental damage to children.
Pets can be poisoned by herbicides by coming into contact with the chemicals when they are outside. They may also ingest herbicides by chewing on plants or other items that have been contaminated, or when they lick themselves after coming into contact with the chemical. Pets can bring herbicides into the house and spread the chemicals around the home and leave residue on furniture and carpets.
When using these powerful chemicals follow these basic safety procedures:
• Avoid drift of spray or dust that may endanger other plants or animals. Do not spray on windy days.
• To protect yourself and others, follow all safety precautions on the label. Know and observe the general rules for safe pesticide use.
• Wear protective clothing and use protective equipment according to instructions on the pesticide label.
• Never eat, drink, or smoke while applying pesticides.
• Avoid spilling spray materials on skin or clothing. If such an accident occurs, wash immediately with soap and water.
• During and after application, keep children and pets away from the treated area according to the product instructions.
• Bathe after applying pesticides and change into freshly laundered clothing. Wash clothing after applying pesticides, keeping in mind that, until laundered, such clothing must be handled according to the same precautions as the pesticide itself. Wash pesticide-contaminated clothing apart from other laundry, and take care in disposing of the wash water.
• Store pesticides in their original containers in a locked, properly marked cabinet or storeroom, away from children and food.
• Do not store herbicides with other pesticides; avoid the danger of cross-contamination.
• If you suspect poisoning, contact your nearest Poison Control Center, hospital emergency room, or physician. Take the pesticide label and, if possible, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) with you and give it to the attending physician.