California Local Logo

Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

An eye-opening reminder about dangerous pesticides

Be careful around garden chemicals; important safety tips to remember

Illustration of pesticide exposure
(Illustration courtesy UC Integrated Pest Management, Pest Note 74126)

Pesticides can do more than kill unwanted insects; they can harm you, too.

Cherry Hoover found that out the hard way while cleaning out her garage. That included pesticides, miticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemical cures that had accumulated over several years. (Remember: The suffix “cide” means “killer.”)

Hoover is president of the Sacramento Floral Design Guild and a national award-winning rose exhibitor and arranger. She has been a dedicated gardener most of her life. She’s handled lots of garden chemicals.

But she let her guard down while packing up boxes of old chemical containers.

“I thought I was doing the right thing,” Hoover recalled. “I almost lost my sight in one eye.”

The culprit: Her cellphone. Hoover had her phone with her while she was working. “I somehow got some chemicals on my hands and then got them on my phone,” she recalled. “Then, I touched my phone (without gloves) and must have touched my face.”

Specks of the unidentified chemical managed to migrate into her eye.

“My eye was paralyzed,” said Hoover, who had to go to the emergency room. “My pupil was frozen open for nearly two weeks. My doctor wasn’t sure it would ever go back (to normal). I couldn’t sleep. It was terrible.”

Fortunately, it was a small enough amount that its effects eventually wore off and Hoover’s eye returned to normal. But her experience was a cautionary reminder: Be extremely careful and alert when handling dangerous chemicals.

“The dumbest things can get you,” said Jolene Adams, former president of the American Rose Society. For local rose clubs, Adams recently led a workshop on chemical safety, her specialty.

Dangerous chemicals can be absorbed quickly, almost instantly, through our skin, nose, mouth and eyes.

“Dermal – through your skin – is the most common,” Adams explained. “You can accidentally splash something on your skin or pick something up.”

Nose and eyes often are overlooked as pathways for chemicals to enter our bodies, Adams noted. “The moist skin inside your nose loves to attract dust. Your eyes are very sensitive.”

When handling any chemicals, wear protection, she said.

“Use chemical-resistant gloves – not vinyl, not rubber, not hospital gloves,” Adams said. “Chemicals will go right through most household or vinyl gloves. But don’t stop there. Wear chemical-resistant shoes, too; not tennis shoes and definitely not sandals.”

Adams also urged the use of safety goggles, a face shield, a hat and a respirator. Use a N-95 facemask at a minimum. She recommends use of protective clothing such as disposable paper coveralls.  Always wear long sleeves and pants when working with chemicals.

Better yet, use fewer chemicals. Wean your garden off pesticides and herbicides. Most problems can be solved by other means, such as integrated pest management, she noted.

When you do buy chemicals, buy the smallest amount – not the largest package, Adams said.

“Never bulk-buy garden chemicals,” she said. “They degrade over time. If you buy less, you have less to get rid of later.”

Never pour chemicals down the drain or mix them together, she added. Always keep them in their original containers with all the warning labels. When disposing of them, do it properly via your city or county’s waste disposal services.

And just in case, memorize the emergency number for Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222.

An excellent guide to pesticide use and safety from the UC Integrated Pest Management system can be found in Pest Note 74126 .


0 comments have been posted.

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

Contact Us

Send us a gardening question, a post suggestion or information about an upcoming event.