There are no quick answers that apply to every situation. However, you can get a good sense of the risk by learning more about the pesticide use nearby. In general, the risk from any pesticide depends on how toxic it is and how much you contact it (eat, breathe, or touch it).
Toxicity varies by product. Each product label lists its toxicity using a signal word. Simply because a pesticide is used nearby does not mean that you will be exposed. Your contact can depend on many factors. Consider distance, application technique, weather conditions, environment, and the product(s) used.
If you live nearby a farm, golf course, nursery, forestry lot, or other neighbors that use pesticides, consider speaking with them to discuss your concerns. Learning more about pesticide use will require communication and cooperation between both parties. Their willingness to share can also be part of your assessment.
Factors that may affect risk:
- Specific Product: Consider asking for the EPA registration number(s). Product names and active ingredients are also useful.
- Distance: Consider learning more about the specific application site.
- Formulation: Products may be liquids, dusts, granules, or other types.
- Equipment: Hand sprayers, vehicles with spray booms, air-blast sprayers, aircraft, or other tools may be used.
- Training: Applicators may be licensed. Your state pesticide regulatory agency can confirm if they are up-to-date. Keep in mind that not all pesticide users need to have a license.
Ways to minimize exposure:
- Consider seeking notice before an application.
- Consider closing doors and windows during a treatment. Consider turning off air systems if they take in air from outdoors.
- Consider leaving the property or staying indoors during applications.
- Consider discussing what precautions are taken by the user to reduce pesticide drift. If drift occurs, avoid touching wet surfaces.
- Fences, hedgerows, and other barriers may reduce movement of pesticide droplets. Barriers that are porous and let some air through are more effective at catching spray droplets than solid barriers. Droplets may move with the air flowing up and over a solid wall.
Pesticides in the environment:
- The potential for pesticides to reach well water depends on many factors. A few of these include the elevation and location of the wellhead, depth, lining, seal, and if it is capped.
- Soil type affects pesticide binding. If pesticides bind to soil, they may not move over or though soil to nearby plants or water. Soil type also affects water movement. Soils with larger particles allow more water infiltration. Heavier soils slow infiltration and tend to have more runoff. A local expert may be able to provide information about your soil.
- Search this database to find the signal word, active ingredient(s), and EPA label for a product.
- Learn more about active ingredient(s) with NPIC Fact Sheets, or by calling NPIC.