We all work hard to make our home and yard a little slice of heaven, a place to have fun and relax with family, pets and friends. We like a manicured lawn, vegetable garden, a pool and a place to have a picnic to enjoy the great outdoors. Sometimes this love for our lawn and garden involves eliminating pests, and we are not talking about the kids! Frequently we are asked about the use of lawn and garden products and their exposure to children and pets. Pets and children can be more vulnerable to pesticides since they are close to the ground and tend to roll around in the grass. Everyone is concerned with their safety and the environment and there are some guidelines that should be followed when applying and storing lawn and garden products. Be sure to always read and follow all directions on the bags!
Lawn and garden products are bought, applied and stored the most during the spring, summer and fall seasons. These are the warmer growing months when weeds, insects and fungi are most active in the lawn. We rely on pesticide products for our pets like flea collars and heartworm medicines for their safety every day without thinking twice. A pesticide is defined as any substance used to destroy insects or other organisms that are harmful to cultivated plants or animals; this includes weeds, insects and fungus. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to read the label completely to assure the proper dosage, rate of application and storage of any leftover product. By law, all pet and lawn and garden pesticide products must be registered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they can be sold in the United States. Pesticide products go through an extensive review, sometimes for up to 10 years and millions of dollars to conduct studies and collect data evaluating short-term and long-term impacts on humans, pets and the environment. A pesticide is approved once it is deemed not to pose any unnecessary risks to people, pets or local eco-systems when used according to label directions.
Some children and pets will be more sensitive to lawn and garden products including fertilizers than others. While we all need to be conscious of the risks, most of us have some sort of products for use around the home to control interior pests. Everything in life involves some risks and rewards that we need to evaluate and decide which path to follow.
To minimize the risk of harm, remove children and any pet toys, food and water from the area you plan to apply any pesticide. The label on each product will have some specific instructions for re-entry times for children and pets. The general rule of thumb is to wait until the dust has settled. We like the idea of watering in any pesticide or fertilizer after application, letting the grass dry and then re-enter. If you want to be extra careful, keep pets off of the treated area for 24 hours and wipe down their paws each time they return back into the home. Be aware if your pet eats grass or digs up any outdoor bait products. Granular products may take more than 24 hours to completely dissolve and disappear from the lawn. Some products cannot be watered in or poor performance will result, particularly weed and feed granules or sprays. Be sure to secure all pesticides properly out of the reach of children and pets! I have heard of a few incidents where homeowners say their dog ate some organic fertilizers, which is because many organic fertilizers are made from dog food ingredients. Remember, children are curious to explore a garage, shed or basement and pets are attracted to smells.
Please use common sense when using lawn and garden products for their sakes. For more information about how to keep pets safe and healthy, go to www.pestfacts.org.