Safe Disposal and Use of InsecticidesAccording to the Environmental Protection Agency, the government entity that regulates pesticides in the U.S., “a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.” Though often misunderstood as referring only to insecticides, the term “pesticide” also applies to herbicides, fungicides and various other substances used to control pests. If a chemical is toxic enough to destroy unwanted pests, it is often toxic to harm people also, especially children. Prevention is the first line of defense if you don’t want uninvited guests flying and scurrying around your home. And, if that doesn’t work, here are some great (and safer) alternatives to toxic chemicals from the experts at
  • Indoor ants:
    • Caulk or screen all entry points. Drawing a solid line with regular chalkboard chalk, putting down lines of cayenne and black pepper as repellants, or using toothpaste, petroleum jelly or duct tape as sealants will work temporarily. For permanent sealing, use silicone caulking.
    • Clean up and remove food sources. Keep kitchen counters, stovetops and floors clean, put garbage in tightly sealed containers and empty it daily, and thoroughly rinse recyclables.
    • Store sugars, grains and pet food in glass jars with seals or gaskets and plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Ants can climb up the threads of screw-top jars and get in if there is no gasket or liner.
  • Outdoor ants: Ants outdoors are normally not a problem. These ants actually benefit us by preying on flea and fly larvae, recycling organic matter and aerating soil.
    • Soapy water can be used to drench outside nests, killing some ants and forcing the others to relocate.
  • Elm leaf beetle: Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information regarding alternatives to pesticides for elm leaf beetle control.
    • Use a sprayer to spray a narrow band of pesticides around the trunk of susceptible trees instead of broadly spraying the whole tree. Only take such action when the population is high enough to warrant it.
Find more nontoxic alternatives at, “Least Toxic Control of Pests In the Home and Garden.” But what do you do if you already have some bottles of the toxic stuff lying around your house? Here is some advice from the EPA:
  • If all the remaining pesticide cannot be properly used, check with your local solid waste management authority, environmental agency or health department to find out whether your community has a household hazardous waste collection program or a similar program for getting rid of unwanted, leftover pesticides. These authorities can also inform you of any local requirements for pesticide waste disposal.
  • To identify your local solid waste agency, look in the government section of your phone book under categories such as solid waste, public works or garbage, trash or refuse collection. Or, you can call 1-800-CLEANUP.
  • State and local laws regarding pesticide disposal may be stricter than the federal requirements on the label. Be sure to check with your state or local agencies before disposing of your pesticide containers.
  • If the container is empty, do not reuse it. Place it in your garbage, unless the label specifies a different procedure.
  • Do not pour leftover pesticides down the sink, into the toilet or down a sewer or street drain. Municipal systems are not equipped to remove all pesticide residues. If pesticides reach waterways, they may harm fish, plants and other living things.
And, food for thought: Scientific studies find that touching surfaces where pesticides have been applied, eating foods with pesticide residue and breathing the fumes from sprays and dusts and can cause nerve and immune system damage, respiratory illness, reproductive problems, cancer and affect behavior and the ability to concentrate. Children, people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women and the elderly are especially susceptible to pesticide-induced illness.