Pesticide safety: Radio spots

AgricultureEnvironment and climate changeHealth


1. Pesticides are hazardous to your health

Pesticides are poisons. They are meant to kill insects or weeds, but they can hurt you too. Did you know that many people become sick every year because they are poisoned by pesticides? Some people even die. You can get very sick if you accidentally spill or spray pesticides on your skin. You can also get sick from eating food, especially fruits and vegetables, that have been sprayed with pesticides.

2. Store pesticides safely

Pesticides are poisons. Always store pesticides in their original containers, never in food containers. Store them in a place with lots of
fresh air. Choose a place where children and animals can’t reach them. Keep pesticides as far away as possible from areas where you sleep, prepare food or eat. Mark pesticide containers so that everyone knows they contain poison.

3. Never use too much pesticide

Pesticides are poisons. Always read pesticide labels. The label tells you how much pesticide to use, and how much water to add. It gives you all the important instructions. Follow these instructions carefully! If you can’t read or you don’t fully understand what you are reading, find someone who can help you. Never use more pesticide than the label recommends. If you use too much pesticide, you may kill the good insects in your fields. There will be no good insects to eat the bad insects. The bad ones will multiply and eat your crops.

4. Pesticides are especially dangerous to infants and children

Pesticides are poisons. They can make your children sick. Keep children and babies far away when you work with pesticides. Never let them play with pesticide containers. If you are pregnant or nursing a baby, do not touch pesticides. Do not wash clothes that have pesticides on them. If they touch your skin or if you breathe in their fumes, poisons can enter your bloodstream. Your blood will carry the poison through your body, where it can harm your liver, your lungs, your stomach and other parts of your body. Your unborn baby can be poisoned when your blood enters the baby’s body. Your young children can get very sick from drinking poisoned breast milk.

5. In case of accident – read the label first!

Pesticides are poisons. Always read the label on the container before you use a pesticide. The label tells you what to do if there is an
accident. The kind of treatment you use depends on the kind of pesticide and will be indicated on the label. For example, if someone accidentally swallows a pesticide, there are two different kinds of treatment. In some cases you should try to make the person vomit to get the poison out of their body. But in other cases it’s important that the person does not vomit. You need to know which choice to make. So read the label first, and make sure you know what to do if there is an accident.

6. Protect yourself when you apply pesticides

Pesticides are poisons. They should never touch your mouth, your eyes or your skin. Protect yourself by wearing clothes that cover as much of your body as possible. These clothes should protect your skin from pesticide powder, dust, liquid or spray. Wear long trousers or a long apron, and a long-sleeved shirt. Protect your feet with rubber boots or shoes. Wear a hat which will not absorb water, and unlined plastic gloves that reach to your elbows. Never wear cloth or rubber gloves. They will absorb the pesticides. Always wash your hands with soap and water after using pesticides.

7. Mix pesticides safely

Pesticides are poisons. Before you use them, know exactly how much you need. Don’t mix more than you will need for one day. Never mix or measure pesticides with your bare hands — use a stick instead. Protect your hands by wearing plastic gloves, or by tying plastic bags securely around your wrists. Don’t use gloves made of cloth or leather. Cloth and leather can absorb the pesticide, which can then touch your skin.

8. Use pesticides safely

Pesticides are poisons. Never spray them on a windy day. The best time to spray is when there is no wind, usually in the early morning, or late in the afternoon. If there is just a little wind, spray in the same direction the wind is blowing. Then the pesticide will blow away from
you, not back toward you. And don’t let it blow toward other people, animals, houses or water supplies.

9. Clean pesticide equipment safely

Pesticides are poisons. When you are finished spraying pesticides, it’s important to clean your equipment safely. Find a place that children and livestock cannot reach. It should be a place that’s far away from all sources of water. Wash your equipment thoroughly with soap and water. Then wash yourself and your clothing too. When you are finished, make sure the washing water will not flow into any water source.

10. When are fields and crops that have been treated with pesticides safe?

Pesticides are poisons. The label on the pesticide container should tell you when it is safe to go back into sprayed fields. As a general rule, stay out of sprayed fields for at least two days. If you go into a treated area too soon, you can be poisoned when pesticides touch your skin. Or you could get sick from breathing pesticide fumes or dust in the air. Do not eat or sell food that has been recently treated with pesticides. Sometimes the pesticide container will tell you how long you must wait to eat treated food. If there is no information on the container, wait three weeks.

11. What to do in case of pesticide poisoning

Pesticides are poisons. Some people may tell you they are safe, but pesticides are poisons and can harm your health. If you feel sick, weak or dizzy when working with pesticides, stop immediately and get away from the area. Wash your body and clothes with soap and water, and change into clean clothes. Rest for a while, and see a health worker as soon as you can. Don’t use the pesticide again for at least a few days.

12. Pesticides harm wildlife

Pesticides are poisons. Birds can die when they eat pesticide granules left on the surface of fields. All animals, including domestic animals such as cats and dogs, can be poisoned by pesticides. Most pesticides are poisonous to fish and other creatures that live in rivers, streams, ponds and wetlands. Don’t spray pesticides near these areas. Bees are killed by many pesticides. Never spray when bees are in the fields.


These radio spots were written by Vijay Cuddeford, researcher/writer at Developing Countries Farm Radio Network. They were reviewed by Susan Kelner, Pesticide Education, Ridgetown, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Information sources

  • Pesticides“, in Harvest, Vol. 14, No. 1-2, 1992. Department of Agriculture and Livestock, Printshop Hohola, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
  • Intoxication por plaguicidas“, in La Era Agricola, No. 8, September 1989. Apartado 456 Merida 5101 Venezuela. Centro Comercial Artema Av. 3 Nivel 3, local 5.
  • Playing it safe with pesticides” in Agriculture in Action, October 1987. Barbados Agricultural Society, St. Michaels, Barbados, W.I.
  • First aid for pesticide poisoning” & “Handle with care!” in African Farming and Food Processing, November/December 1989. Alain Charles Publishing Ltd., 27 Wilfred Street, London SW1E 6PR, UK.
  • El Angel de la Muerte, by James Grieshop, 36 pages. Consortium for International Crop Protection, Ecuador.
  • Reaping without Weeping: A guide to safe management and application of chemicals in agriculture, 1991, 205 pages. Caribbean Network for Integrated Rural Development (CNIRD), 40 Eastern Main Road, St. Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago, W.I.
  • Agro-Pesticides: their management and application, by Jan H. Oudejans, 1982. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Building, Rajadamnern Avenue, Bangkok 10200, Thailand.
  • Farmworker Pesticide Safety Training Program: Leader’s Guide, by Dr. Sam Fluker, 1995. Peace Corps Information Collection and Exchange, 1990 K Street, NW – 8th floor, Washington, DC 20526, U.S.A.
  • Uso Seguro de Pesticidas para los Trabajadores del Campo (Pesticide Safety for Farm workers), by Bonnie Poli, 1994. Peace Corps Information Collection and Exchange, 1990 K Street, Nw – 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20526, U.S.A.

Further Information

  • Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP)
    PO Box 1170
    10850 Penang
    Tel: (60-4)656 0381 or 657 0271
    Fax: (60-4) 657 7445
  • Pesticide Action Network Africa (PAN-Africa)
    BP 15938, Dakar-Fann
    Tel/Fax : (221) 825 49 14
  • <EM>Pesticide Action Network UK (former The Pesticide Trust)</EM><BR>56-64 Leonard Street<BR>London EC2A 4JX<BR>Tel: +44 (0) 20 7065 0905<BR>Fax: +44 (0) 20 7065 0907<BR>Internet: <A title=”Link opens a new window to a resource on another web site” href=”” rel=external target=_blank data-mce-href=””></A>
  • Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
    49 Powell St., Suite 500
    San Francisco, CA 94102, U.S.A.
    Tel: (415) 981-1771
    Fax (415) 981-1991