An early happy spring from the Washington Poison Center, and a reminder that many of your lawn and gardening aids contain potentially toxic chemicals.
Regular use of these products is unlikely to be toxic. However, accidental ingestion can cause severe poisoning. Remember to keep all lawn and garden products safely stored away from children and pets, and do not leave open containers unattended.
Many of these products are easily absorbed through the skin, so wear gloves and other protective clothing (including eye wear) when using and immediately wash off any skin exposures with water and soap. Read and follow the product directions carefully for mixing and use. Wash your hands carefully after applying a pesticide and change your clothes.
A pesticide is a substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any type of pest (US EPA). “Pests” include insects, weeds, bacteria, viruses, and more. The following are all types of pesticides.
- Insect killer: organic phosphorus compounds (malathion) Some insect killers contain organic phosphorus compounds. If accidentally ingested or absorbed through the skin, these can cause vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, and can slow the heart rate.
- Insect killer: carbamates (carbaryl, aldicarb) The carbamates are also found in some insecticides (e.g. Sevin®). These can potentially cause toxicity similar to the organic phosphorus compounds described above.
- Weed killer: diquat Diquat is a bipyridyl contact weed killer. If accidentally ingested, this compound can cause seizures and kidney damage.
- Weed killer: glyphosate Glyphosate is the weed-killing chemical found in some commonly used herbicides (e.g. Roundup®). Large ingestions of glyphosate have been associated with cardiac arrhythmias and damage to multiple organs.
- Read the label: The labels contain information about the active ingredients, the potential toxicity, and specific safety measures to be taken.
- Ventilate if indoors: If using a pesticide indoors, open windows and doors to allow fumes to escape
- Wear protective clothing: Protect your skin by wearing gloves and long sleeves, and protect your eyes by wearing safety glasses or sun glasses. If any skin is exposed while applying, wash immediately with soap and water.
- Do not leave products open or unattended: When using, replace the caps and store up and out of reach of children.
- Wash your hands: Wash your hands with soap and water, even if you wore gloves. Wash any other parts of the skin that may have been exposed during use (e.g. lower legs).
- Change clothing: Remove all clothing and wash it immediately in load of its own.
- Store properly: Store pesticides in their original containers with child-resistant lids in areas out of reach and out of sight of children and pets. Never transfer pesticides to an unlabeled container!
- Dispose properly: Contact your local hazardous waste or waste management program to find the household disposal location nearest you!
- Gasoline & Oils: Never store spent oil and gasoline in unlabeled containers. Storage in soda or drink containers can lead to unintentional ingestions and poisonings.
- Fertilizers: Treat these products like a pesticide, and follow the instructions above.
Call the Washington Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 if you feel you or another individual have been poisoned by a holiday hazard or have any questions. Calls are free, confidential, and answered by healthcare professionals.