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HANDLING & CLEANING UP DAMAGED PESTICIDE CONTAINERS

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Note: The following information applies primarily to residential pesticide users. Additional information is available HERE.
Farmers, commercial pesticide applicators and pesticide dealers who store and handle restricted-use pesticides should follow their emergency plans for handling pesticide spills and similar problems or click HERE for additional information.

damaged pesticides containers and improper storagePesticides should always be stored off of the ground to reduce the chances of floodwaters damaging the containers and potentially contaminating the storage area and other materials stored there. Here are some tips for homeowners on what to do if a storm results in water damage to pesticide containers.

  • Keep children and pets away from areas where damaged pesticide containers are located.

  • Wear gloves (preferably chemical-resistant gloves). Never use cotton or other types of fabric or leather gloves which can absorb the chemical If possible, wear protective eyewear when handling pressurized pesticide containers. A rubberized apron will also help protect your clothing from pesticides. 

  • If there is standing water in the area where you store your pesticides, wear rubber boots or waders. Pesticide-contaminated water will soak into sneakers, ordinary shoes and even boots as well as your pants and can then be absorbed through your skin.

  • Check with your municipal or private waste collection office about disposing of full or partially-filled pesticide containers with your regular trash. Remember: whether you have a commercial trash service or take your own trash to a landfill, someone else may have to handle your trash and you shouldn't put them at risk handling your pesticides. A better choice is to take damaged/contaminated pesticides to an approved hazardous household chemicals collection/disposal site. If you do not know where it is located, contact your county Cooperative Extension Center.
  • Aerosol cans that are rusted or damaged should be discarded according to the product label instructions. In many cases, you can wrap the container in newspaper and discard it with your regular trash, but check with your trash collection agency first
  • Damaged paper bags or cardboard boxes that contain pesticides should be placed into garbage bags for proper disposal. If a bag is damaged or water-logged, you can carefully push it into a trash bag. Do not pick up water-logged bags because they may fall apart and spread pesticide all of you and the area around you.

  • Seal and clearly label the garbage bags as to their contents and place the bags into a trash can.
    • Do not leave pesticides out where children, pets or wildlife can come into contact with them.
    • Do not put bags containing pesticides in with your other trash unless you are allowed to dispose of them together.

  • Spilled solid pesticides (granular, dust or powdered products) should be collected and (if possible) placed back in their original containers. Useable products should be applied to an appropriate site (i.e., one listed on the product label). If you don't think that the chemical is useable, then dispose of it properly.
  • Spilled liquid pesticides can be soaked up with cat litter or another absorbent material. Shovel the litter into a garbage bag for appropriate disposal.

  • Clean your broom, shovel or other pesticide-contaminated clean-up tools thoroughly with water outdoors (never in a sink) before using them anywhere else for other purposes. Rinse the tools in an area where the water will drain into the soil and not run-off into the storm drains or simply pool on the surface where children or animals may come into contact with it.
  • If a container is badly damaged and you must transfer a pesticide to another container for storage or disposal
    • Place the container into a larger bucket temporarily so you don't spill pesticide into the surrounding soil or other surface.
    • Clearly label this container as to its contents: the brand name, common name (under "Active ingredients"), concentration of the active ingredient, signal word ("Danger", "Warning" or "Caution" as printed on the original label) and the EPA Registration number (usually found under the list of ingredients).
    • If the pesticide container label is damaged or lost, get another copy of the label (online or at a local retailer) or at least write the name of the chemical on the container, then discard it appropriately. Don't rely on your memory to recall weeks or months later what chemical is in the container or how it is supposed to be mixed and applied. Pesticides placed in non-pesticide containers must have a copy of the product labeled attached to it if you intend to keep and use the chemical later.
    • Never use food containers (e.g., plastic or glass beverage containers, "Tupperware" or other plastic food-storage containers) for storing pesticides even if you write the name of chemical on the containerSomeone may accidentally drink or use the contents assuming that it is a beverage or flour..
  • Liquid pesticides in undamaged plastic bottles should be salvageable. Most pesticides are water insoluble and turn milky-white when water is added. Any pesticide that you suspect is contaminated should be discarded.
  • If you can't dispose of damage pesticide containers immediately, place them in a secure area where children, pets or wild animals cannot reach them. Contact your city/county solid waste disposal office or your county Cooperative Extension Center.
  • Thoroughly rinse rubber gloves and boots worn while handling damaged pesticide containers and/or cleaning up spills. 
  • If you spill pesticides on your skin and/or clothing:

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    • Remove pesticide-saturated clothing immediately.
    • Shower or rinse contaminated areas of skin thoroughly .
    • Put on clean clothing.
    • Do not reuse contaminated clothes without first washing them.

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If you start feeling dizzy or ill after handling the pesticides, go immediately to a hospital emergency room or call the North Carolina Poison Control Center (1-800-848-6946).

IMPORTANT: If possible, bring the container(s) with you or at least copy down the name(s) of the pesticide(s) that you've been handling. It will greatly assist the physicians and NCPCC in helping you in this emergency.

For additional information about disposing of empty containers and unused pesticides, you can contact the Pesticide Section of the NC Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services (919-733-3556). 


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