CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Winter can be a great time to catch up on tasks around the farm that the busy growing season doesn’t allow time for. One important task to make time for is evaluating your inventory of pesticides to ensure that they are stored properly and safely. Improper storage can be a risk to the safety of humans, animals, and the environment.
First, make sure that pesticide products are stored in locked cabinets. These should preferably be metal and out of reach of children. Pesticides should be stored in a cool, dry environment. Some products may have a narrower preferred temperature range than others. Check the labels for storage temperature requirements of the products you use. Pesticides should be stored separately from other farm supplies to limit potential contamination. Avoid storing pesticide products near crop seed, fertilizers, animal feed, veterinary supplies, or fuel and other combustible materials.
Always store pesticides in their original containers with the label attached. Never store any pesticides or diluted mixtures in old food or drink containers. Even if you’ve removed the label and written the pesticide information on them, they can still easily be mistaken for something safe to consume, especially by children. Additionally, most diluted mixtures should only be stored for a short time before use to ensure the best efficacy. As you’re arranging the products in your inventory, store dry pesticides above liquid pesticides, so that the liquid products will not contaminate the dry if a spill occurs. Liquid products can also be stored in a secondary container (such as plastic dish pans) to contain any spills or leaks from faulty containers. If you see any signs of leaks as you’re sorting your inventory, get those containers into secondary containment before returning to the cabinet. All containers should be upright with lids tightly sealed to minimize the risk of leaks. If you’re unsure about how to store a product, consult the label as they contain instructions for proper storage. The label is the law so following proper storage practices is a requirement, not a suggestion.
Personal protective equipment should be kept outside of the pesticide storage area to prevent contamination. Your protective equipment should be nearby so you can easily put it on before mixing and loading but not sharing the space directly with products. The storage area should be posted with a warning sign to indicate the presence of pesticide products. A folder containing emergency contact numbers and product inventory with safety data sheets (SDS) should be available nearby.
During your inventory evaluation, you may find you have products you no longer use and wish to get dispose of. Never dump pesticides down the drain, on the ground, or in a storm sewer, as this will cause harm to the environment. For licensed pesticide applicators and pesticide businesses, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture offers a program called CHEMSWEEP for disposing of pesticides. The counties served each year are on a rotating schedule where 15 to 20 counties are selected each year to participate in this program, and each county is usually selected every 4 years. The next time CHEMSWEEP will come to Franklin County will be in 2026. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection organizes a hazardous waste disposal program for homeowners. Homeowners can search for household hazardous waste collection events or contact their county solid waste authority.
–Karly Regan, Penn State Extension