Now that it’s weed and bug season, people will be spraying chemicals into every conceivable corner of their homes and landscapes. Not only is pest spraying a vital part of the American economy, it has become a national pastime, surpassed only by football and ranting on Facebook. But before using any pesticide in your garden, bedroom or spouse’s cereal, it is important to read the label. The fact that no one does so, much less knows how to read anymore, is no reason you shouldn’t. Since chemical companies use such labels primarily to avoid lawsuits, you might find some valuable information that you could use against them, like not specifying the hazards of using the product on cereal.
The first part of the label lists ingredients, which are given freakish chemical names meant to scare you like Superglamamine-nitro-megakill-triphosphate. If you read the fine print, however, you will see that only .000000000000001% of the product actually contains this chemical. All the rest is composed of perfectly safe inert materials like water, used kitty litter and a surfactant, whatever that is.
The next part lists the important phone numbers to call. There’s a product information number to complain why the product left purple stains on your living room carpet and a medical emergency number to call when in the course of using the product you suddenly stop breathing.
Invariably there is a warning to “keep out of reach of children,” so if you were thinking of having your four-year-old bratty niece that your sister dropped off for the weekend do the spraying, just forget it.
Then there are a whole bunch of prissy precautionary statements, like if you ingest ten gallons of the pesticide you might experience minor gas pain, diarrhea or complete paralysis. Look for a signal word in upper case letters; if it says “DANGER,” this means maximum toxicity and that is good because you are getting the most bang for your buck. There’s also stuff about environmental hazards such as killing fish or causing long-range permanent damage to the gene pool of all life on earth, but this is not your problem.
This is followed by a terse statement that it is a violation of FEDERAL LAW to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling, which means you could be facing some serious jail time for using it to kill that nasty foot fungus.
Under “Storage and Disposal” is a warning not to store the chemical in food or beverage containers and to avoid contaminating foodstuffs, especially those you happen to be eating at the time. Recommended procedures for disposal are also provided, which at the very minimum should include triple rinsing the empty container, wrapping it with an impervious, all weather plastic, encasing this in solid concrete, and placing the whole in an unmarked bag and dropping it off at the nearest EPA approved Extreme Hazardous Material site or, if one is not conveniently nearby, in your neighbor’s trashcan.
The “Directions for Safe Usage” is a long overblown section full of stuff obvious to any normal, sensible person, such as mixing, filling tanks or aerial sprayers, and manner of application, which you can largely ignore. I mean, who doesn’t want to use pesticides safely? You do want to read the part about how much of the product to use per gallon of water. Plan on at least doubling or tripling this amount for more killing power.
You might also want to glance at the part listing the kinds of pests actually targeted by the product. Don’t worry if the pest you are trying to eliminate isn’t mentioned. Just increase the dosage. For really serious pests, like telemarketers, you may have to go full strength to achieve long lasting control.
Lastly, there is usually a section called “Re-entry Intervals.” This just tells you how long you should wait after application until it is safe to enter the area again. This is a personal judgment call. Some people are more chemically sensitive than others. If you suddenly start to bleed through your facial orifices and notice a dense green cloud in the area, you may want to wait a few minutes at least. ©Gene Twaronite 2013 Originally published in 5enses, July 2013 http://www.5ensesmag.com/the-absurd-naturalist-how-not-to-read-a-pesticide-lab