Gardeners often use pesticides to control insects, weeds and plant diseases. However, it’s important to remember that these pesticides can also cause problems for humans, pets and the environment.
Home gardeners should follow label directions and store chemicals safely. They should also purchase only what they need for one season.
1. Environmental Damage
Once a pesticide enters the environment, it is subject to many processes that determine its persistence and movement. These can be beneficial, moving the pesticide to a target area or destroying harmful residues, but they can also be detrimental, leading to damage to the environment and injury to nontarget plants and animals.
For example, the chemical and physical properties of a pesticide affect its solubility in water and whether it will move into the soil as a solution or a solid. The time it takes for a pesticide to decay and break down (degradability) is another factor that may influence leaching.
Depending on the soil’s organic matter content, some herbicides and other pesticide toxins can remain in the soil for many years after they are applied to crops. This is especially true of insecticide toxins.
2. Human Health Risks
Pesticides are widely used around the world to protect food crops, household plants and gardens from insects, weeds and other pests that damage them.
Homeowners can minimize the risk of harm to themselves and others from chemical pesticides by using them correctly, avoiding overuse and keeping chemicals in their original containers. Use the amount of pesticide listed on the label and follow all directions for dilution and application.
Some pesticides are also toxic to wildlife and beneficial insects, causing them to become diseased or die. These effects can cause long-term effects on biodiversity and the ability of organisms to survive and reproduce.
3. Animal Damage
Aside from causing environmental damage, pesticides are also harmful to animals. They can poison pets and even kill desirable wildlife such as birds, mammals, and insects.
The most common animal damage is stem and foliage injury. This can be caused by rabbits, mice, deer, voles, squirrels, and gophers.
Identifying what pest is causing the plant damage helps to determine what control method to use. Some gardeners choose to apply organic insecticides such as spinosad and neem oil, which are non-toxic to both humans and animals.
The most important thing is to follow the label directions for mixing and applying sprays or dusts outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Keep children and pets away when mixing or applying pesticides.
4. Water Contamination
Garden chemicals are designed to kill or control the pests that attack plants. They include insecticides, herbicides and fungicides.
When these products are used in the home garden, they must be applied according to label directions. If used over the maximum rate or more often than allowed, they can result in environmental contamination or human health risks.
Some pesticides may also leach into ground water from the soil. This leaching depends on several factors, including the chemical and physical properties of the pesticide and the way it moves in the soil.
5. Wildlife Damage
The use of pesticides in gardens can damage wildlife. This can include beneficial insects, birds and small mammals.
Often, pesticides are applied to gardens without adequate protection against wildlife exposure or other risks. This is a serious problem because pesticides are chemically related to nerve gas and can cause a variety of health problems.
The risk of exposure to a pesticide depends on its level of toxicity and the amount of exposure. Even low levels of a pesticide can be toxic to people and cause long-term health effects.