1.800.858.7378 npic@ace.orst.edu
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Frequently Asked Questions



What is NPIC?

The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) is first and foremost a source for objective, science-based pesticide information. We can help you address your health and safety concerns about pesticides and pest control so you can make informed decisions.

How do I contact NPIC?

We are always happy to have a conversation about your concerns. Please leave us a message if we are not open when you call.

8:00 am to 12:00 pm Pacific Time, Monday - Friday
Email us at npic@ace.orst.edu

Who funds NPIC?

NPIC is a cooperative agreement between Oregon State University and the Environmental Protection Agency. We do not have regulatory authority at the national or local level.

Does NPIC recommend products?

No. NPIC does not make pesticide product recommendations. We also do not produce or sell any products. However, we have many helpful tips for pest control, selecting a product, and choosing a pest control company.



Can pesticides cause cancer?

Pesticides include many different substances. Like all substances, pesticides vary in how likely they are to increase cancer risk. A person’s cancer risk from a pesticide will depend on what the pesticide is and how it is used. It will also depend on how much a person is exposed to and how long they are exposed for.

Authoritative organizations categorize pesticides based on evidence of cancer risk. These categories can help us understand cancer risk but cannot predict or determine the cause of cancer. Call us to discuss your questions or concerns.

How do I use disinfectants safely for COVID-19?

Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces is an important part of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Only disinfectants kill viruses, not cleaners or sanitizers; look for "disinfect" on the label. It's important to always follow the "contact time" listed on the label, which is the time the surface must stay wet with disinfectant to kill the virus. Check to see that you're following all instructions, including where the label says it can be used. Do not allow children to use any disinfectants, even wipes! Learn more in the expanded FAQ linked below.

This page was written as a collaboration between the National Pesticide Information Center, the Virginia Poison Center, the Oregon Poison Center, and the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Feel free to call us and talk to one of our Pesticide Specialists to discuss your situation at 800-858-7378.

How do I prepare for outdoor pesticide treatments?

Pesticides used outdoors may have risks to nearby people and animals. While each product has unique risks, steps can be taken to minimize the risk of exposure. First steps may include staying out of the area during and after the application. Moving sensitive items and keeping doors and windows shut may also help to minimize exposure. Please feel free to call us and talk to one of our Pesticide Specialists to discuss your situation at 800-858-7378.

Is this product safe?

Exposure to enough of any substance (water, pesticides, pain killers) can make a person or animal ill. The toxicity of different pesticide active ingredients can vary. Some are very low in toxicity and some are high. Whether high or low in toxicity, the health risks depend on your amount of exposure to the product.

Find toxicity information on ingredient fact sheets, learn more about understanding pesticide risks, and how to minimize risks. Please feel free to call us and talk to one of our Pesticide Specialists to discuss your situation at 800-858-7378.

What symptoms do people have after overexposure to a pesticide?

Symptoms vary widely. Potential health effects depend on the pesticide and how a person was exposed. Reported symptoms from exposure to different ingredients may be found in our active ingredient fact sheets or by searching in health databases. Talk to your doctor for medical information.

Are plant oils or organic pesticides safer than other products?

Pesticides approved for organic production or ingredients like plant oils are sometimes low in toxicity. However, this is not always the case. Some of these products are just as toxic or even more toxic than similar synthetic pesticides.

How do I find the lowest toxicity products?

Consider looking for the signal word "CAUTION" on a label to know it's a low-toxicity product. You may also consider looking for pesticides with certain qualified ingredients that are called minimum risk pesticides.

Consider reducing the need for pesticides by using a combination of methods for control. You may be able to receive free pest control advice from a Master Gardener or another local expert by calling your Cooperative Extension Service.

What about using pesticides if I am pregnant or have a baby?

All pesticides have some level of toxicity and pose some risk during pregnancy. The risks can depend on the product, who will apply it, and where it will be applied. Call us to discuss your questions and find more detailed information below.

Can pesticide use next door affect my health?

There are no quick answers that apply to every situation. However, you can get a good sense of the risk by gathering information from nearby pesticide users. In general, the risk from any pesticide depends on how toxic it is and how much contact you have (eating, breathing, touching).



How should I mix or apply this product?

If directions on a product label are unclear or if you have questions, consider calling the manufacturer of the product. If you cannot find the phone number for a company, call us for help at 800-858-7378.

A product label may not say what you are not allowed to do with it. Labels usually only list how you are allowed to use the product. If it isn't on the label, don't do it. In general, there are a few safe use practices you may wish to follow.

How should I get rid of unwanted or leftover pesticides?

Check the product's label for the Storage and Disposal section. If the label directions are unclear, contact your local household hazardous waste or find disposal information on our website.

How long will a pesticide stay in my yard?

The breakdown of a chemical is measured by its half-life. Each ingredient will move differently in the environment. Pesticide ingredients vary in their potential to dissolve, vaporize, bind to soils, or enter groundwater.

If you have an herbicide, use the Herbicide Properties Tool to find how it might move in the environment.

How can I wash out pesticides from dirty work clothes?

Handle dirty clothes with gloves and keep them in a bag away from pets and children until they can be washed. Wash the clothing separately from family laundry to prevent cross-contamination. Find tips for wash cycles, drying, and detergents in the expanded FAQ below.

What should I do when carrying pesticides in my car?

Do what you can to avoid spills and damaging containers during transport. Place products in the trunk of your car or as far away from passengers and pets as possible. Secure the load with ropes or straps. Avoid leaving products in extreme temperatures (hot or cold).

Can I apply DEET under my clothes?

DEET is intended for use on exposed skin and on top of clothing. If treated skin is covered by clothing, more DEET could be absorbed into the body.



Is 'food grade' diatomaceous earth okay for pest control?

The two products are not identical. 'Food grade' products are not labeled for pest control and have not been evaluated for pest-control related risks. The amount of diatomaceous earth that can be used in food production may be much less than you would use in your home for pest control.

Food grade products don't tell you how much to use or what precautions to take (dust mask, etc.) while applying the product.

Can I use mothballs to repel insects or animals?

Mothballs contain high concentrations of insecticides designed to off-gas and kill fabric pests like moths. Mothballs should only be used in airtight containers that trap gas and prevent the fumes from entering living spaces. Inhaling the mothball fumes can cause health problems. The label will tell you exactly where and how a product is supposed to be used.

Why do I have cockroaches in my home?

Cockroaches can enter a home in many ways. They may want shelter, food, or water. Keep the kitchen clean, repair plumbing leaks, and seal cracks and holes to keep cockroaches out.

What can I do after a flood?

Dealing with a flooded home can be complicated. Reduce the potential for mold by drying out the building as fast as possible. Plan on disinfecting or discarding everything that was wet.

How can I avoid mosquito bites?

Covering skin with loose, light-colored clothing and using mosquito repellents can reduce mosquito bites when outside. Consider using permethrin treated clothing. The CDC lists DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus as repellents that typically provide 'reasonably' longer-lasting protection.

Do I need to spray for mosquitoes at home?

Whether or not you need to treat for mosquitoes can depend on your situation. Learn about whether mosquitoes in your area carry diseases. Check if the community (vector control) is already spraying for mosquitoes. Consider what else you can do to keep mosquitoes away like removing standing water.

Can I burn sulfur for pest control?

There are no EPA-approved sulfur products that can be burned to protect plants from pests. There are unknown risks with using an unevaluated product. Exposure to gas from burning sulfur can cause coughing, sore throat, and sometimes severe eye irritation.



What does it mean when food is organic?

Organic food is not necessarily pesticide-free. Food with a USDA organic symbol has been largely produced without man-made pesticides or other man-made products. Only organic pesticide ingredients can be used on foods that are certified organic, with very few exceptions.

How can I wash pesticides from fruit and veggies?

Washing produce under running water is better than dunking it. You can scrub tougher skins with a clean brush or rub soft produce while holding them under running water. The Food and Drug Administration does not recommend using detergents or soaps.

Can I plant vegetables after using a weed killer?

Some weed killers can be used to prepare the soil before planting and some cannot. Check the product's label before applying. It may also list how long to wait before planting different types of vegetables.

Can I use compost contaminated with clopyralid or other herbicides?

The risks may be unknown. If contaminated compost is already in the veggie garden, there are a number of options. You may choose to plant your vegetables elsewhere, grow a cover crop of plants to dispose of later, or take steps to speed up the herbicide's breakdown. Or, you may choose to remove the contaminated soil altogether.

Can I eat food from plants that may have been drifted on?

There are unknown risks with consuming food from plants that were accidentally treated with a pesticide. Often, we don't know how much of the product is on or in the food. Sometimes, a person may not even know what type of pesticide could be on the plants.

NPIC can help you understand the risks by discussing the toxicity of ingredients, their movement within a plant, and their breakdown in the environment. Call us at 800-858-7378 for more information.



Can rat poison (rodenticides) hurt kids and pets?

Yes. All rodenticides can be toxic to people and animals when eaten. Be aware that pets could be poisoned from eating poisoned prey. Think about how a pet might be exposed to the product based on where it is stored or applied. Bait stations may not be 100% pet-proof.

How do I protect my pets while using mole or gopher baits?

Baits can have ingredients that pets might find tasty. Keep pets away from rodent baits during storage and during use. Consider covering baited holes with sod and a heavier item like wood or a brick so that pets cannot dig it up.

How can I protect my pets when using pesticides around them?

Pets tend to be curious. Remove pets and their toys from an area before treatment. Keep pets away from treated areas until a product has dried and the area has been well ventilated. The label may contain more instructions.

Are spot-on flea and tick products safe for my pets?

Adverse reactions associated with spot-on products are rare, but any flea and tick control product has some risks. They have the potential to be hazardous, especially if used incorrectly. Call us at 800-858-7378 to discuss any adverse reaction to pet products or other pesticides.

Could snail bait hurt my dog?

There is a variety of slug and snail baits available today. Baits may be attractive to dogs so take steps to reduce their access to a treated area or a stored product. Check the active ingredient on your product's label and read more about the toxicity of different ingredients in the expanded FAQ below.

Have a question about a specific pesticide? If so, try looking at our pesticide Active Ingredient Fact Sheets or call the number below to talk to one of our pesticide specialists, toll free from 8:00am - 12:00pm Pacific Time (11:00am - 3:00pm Eastern Time).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has information about pesticides, available here.

If you have questions about any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Last updated May 14, 2021

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Control a pest

Integrated Pest Management

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Natural and Biological Pesticides



Other types of pesticides

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