Along with the pleasures of outdoor activity, good weather brings something less welcome: all shapes and sizes and kinds of bugs! Before you arm yourself against this year's onslaught, you should be aware that the weapons you use against insects can harm more than their targets.

Chemicals used to control or kill pests such as insects, rats, fungi, and weeds are generally known as pesticides. Pesticides are the number two causes of household poisonings in the U.S. About 2 million people and countless pets are affected each year by common household pesticides such as fly spray, roach bait, and insect repellents. More than half of those who die from pesticide-related poisoning are children.

  1. For home gardens buy and use only a pesticide with a domestic label. Domestic or home and garden products are in small containers and are easy to use. Do not use a product marked agricultural, commercial, industrial, or restricted. These products are often more concentrated and more toxic and are only available in large containers. Use only the pesticide recommended for the problem. The recommended uses are on the label. Before opening the container, read the label. Read it all, even the small print.
  2. Follow the label directions and measure the dosage exactly. Do not use a little extra for good measure as too much may cause injury to plants, kill beneficial insects, or leave harmful residues on edible crops. Rates lower than recommended may result in unsatisfactory pest control.
  3. Don't mix pesticides in containers that anyone might use for eating or drinking. If you need mixing spoons for your pesticides, don't use them for anything else. Mix sprays outdoors, away from areas used by family members or pets. Protect your eyes and skin, and always stay upwind of the area you're spraying. To avoid drift, do not apply pesticides on a windy day. Never smoke, eat, or drink while applying pesticides
  4. Avoid inhaling sprays or dusts. Always wear protective clothing and masks when the label calls for them. Wash hands and face after applying pesticides. If dusts or sprays are spilled on skin or clothing, remove clothing immediately and wash contaminated skin with warm, soapy water. Clothing must be thoroughly cleaned before it is reused. Wash and dry contaminated clothing separately from the family wash.
  5. Don't store diluted pesticide spray. It may react with the mixing container, and it won't retain its effectiveness anyway. Most pesticides are sold in concentrated form to be diluted for use. These products must be stored correctly in order to maintain their effectiveness and avoid endangering other people and pets. Select a lockable cabinet or closet that is dark, dry, and well-ventilated, and where the temperature stays between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Always store pesticides in their original containers, and never remove labels.