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close this bookEnvironmentally Sound Technologies for Women in Agriculture (IIRR, 1996, 213 p.)
close this folderPests and pesticides
View the documentIntegrated pest management
View the documentNeem for plant protection
View the documentNeem oil as mosquito repellent
View the documentBiological control of malaria
View the documentNon-chemical methods of weed control
View the documentSafe use of pesticides
View the documentHazard of pesticides
View the documentPesticide facts and fiction
View the documentFirst-aid measures for pesticide poisoning
View the documentSave your crop from bird damage
View the documentBeekeeping

Safe use of pesticides

Pesticides are toxic chemicals. They must be used with extreme care. Most farm women, however, have no formal training or information on proper use of pesticides. A large majority of women take no precautions whatsoever when working with pesticides. The result: many women handle, transport, and apply pesticides in ways which can lead to deadly consequences. It is critical, therefore, that you learn the following techniques for safe pesticide use.

Buying pesticides

Before buying pesticides, you must answer the following questions:

- Which pest is to be controlled?
- How much damage has the pest done?
- Are sufficient predators already in the field or are they likely to be there soon?
- What are the recommended pesticides for the pest problem?
- Which is the least toxic and least persistent among the recommended pesticides?

Buy pesticides from a reputable and reliable licensed store.


Do not buy in bulk, buy only as much as you expect to use within a short period. i Do not buy if the container is rusted, torn, leaking, or if the date of use has expired

4 Buy only pesticides in their original package with proper labelling.

5 Buy only pesticides with the ISI mark. This shows that the pesticide conforms to the standards laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

6 Do not buy banned, restricted, or highly toxic pesticides.


Use pesticides only as a last resort and as part of an integrated pest management strategy. See Integrated pest management.


1 Avoid carrying pesticides on public transport.

2 Do not transport pesticides together with food products, fodder, or other commodities.

3 Make sure that pesticides are adequately packaged and do not spill or leak out.

4 If the pesticide spills or leaks, wash the vehicle that has been used for transporting the pesticides. For this, apply bleaching lime paste (1 kg of lime for every 4 litres of water) and wash it off with water twice or three times within an hour after its application. If the pesticide spills onto clothing, follow the instructions below, under "After application."


1 Do not keep pesticides in the kitchen or living room. Keep them away from food, animal feed and fodder, and containers of potable water.

2 Keep pesticides locked away and ensure that they are out of reach of children and pets.

3 Preferably, store pesticides in a separate room which is well-ventilated and is away from sunlight, fire, and water.

4 Be careful of cross-contamination. Store herbicides separately from other kinds or pesticides.

5 Do not keep medicines for humans and livestock together with pesticides.

6 Reseal containers after partial use.

Waiting period

Pesticides leave residues on crops. Observe the waiting period specified on the label or recommended by your extension worker. The waiting period depends on the type Of crop, the pesticide used, and the dosage.


The waiting period is the minimum length of time you must wait after applying the pesticide before it is safe to harvest the crop. Do not harvest crops (especially vegetables) until the waiting period for the pesticide has passed.

- Do not work alone while handling or applying pesticides.

- Never allow children, animals, or unauthorized people near the site of mixing and application.

- Always use a long wooden stick for mixing pesticides in water.

- Spray early in the morning or in the evening. Suspend spraying during midday in summer months.

- Avoid excessive spraying. The spray should not drip onto the soil.

- Read the label and the instructions care fully before opening the pesticide packet or bottle.

- While mixing, pour the liquids carefully. Prevent splashing. Prevent powdered pesticides from blowing into your face. Mix with a long stick to prevent the liquid from splashing onto your hands.

- Never eat drink or smoke while mixing or appliyng pesticides.

- Wear protective clothing: rubber boots, a rubber apron, goggles, face mask and respirator. If a face mask is not available, cover your mouth and nose with a clean cloth Women must not wear loose clothing, such as sarees. Keep a separate set of clothing to wear when handling and applying pesticides. Wash these clothes immediately after use.

- Avoid application of pesticides on rainy or cloudy days.

- Never blow out clogged nozzles or hoses with your mouth. Use a fine wire or pin.

- Check the wind direction before starting to spray. Start spraying at the downwind edge of the field and move upwind so you are always moving into an unsprayed area. Always move along the wind while spraying and dusting so that the spray or dust is directed by air current away from you. Do not spray in strong winds. Try to avoid spraying when large number of bees are visiting the crop, normally when the crop is in flower.


Do not spray in strong wind. Mix pesticides only in the field where you will spray. This will reduce the risk of spillage. Never mix pesticides inside your house.


Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not handle or apply pesticides.

After application

1 Immediately after spraying, take a bath and change your clothes.

2 All clothes must be washed immediately after spraying. Wash them separately from other clothes.

3 Never leave pesticide in sprayers and dusters. Clean equipment with soap, detergent, or soda solution and fresh water. Rinse with clean water once or twice before returning the equipment to storage.

4 Dispose of all empty pesticide containers by burning or burying them in the field. Do not use them to store food, water, or as cooking utensils. Do not sell empty containers to hawkers because they might end up being misused.

5 Return unused pesticide to the storage place and keep it under lock and key.

6 Do not go into a treated field until the recommended safety period has passed. Read the pesticide label or ask your extension agent about safe waiting periods.

Contributors and sources: Dr. N. R. Roy, Dr. L. M. L. Mathur, Dr. Jagdish Singh, and Dr. Nelia Maramba