Consumer Tips

Here are the answers to the most common questions people have about pesticides and their use.

What is a pesticide?

“Pesticide” is any substance or mixture of substances meant for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.

These include common household products used to control ants, mice, and roaches, and products frequently used in the garden or lawn to control dandelions, ragweed, poison ivy, and other weeds, as well as stinging pests like wasps and mosquitoes.

Why do we use pesticides?

Insects, rodents and weeds can threaten the health and well-being of our families and communities. Pesticides help protect us from diseases carried by insects, illnesses caused by contact with rodent droppings, urine, or dander (like West Nile virus) and many other pests.

For example, increasingly studies show allergens from rodents like mice and cockroaches are a significant cause of asthma in children, making control of these pests in schools and homes even more important.

Controlling weeds and insects keeps our homes pest-free and our lawns, parks, and other outdoor spaces usable. Think about the last time you saw a vacant lot or abandon home. Without proper weed control, playgrounds, soccer and softball fields, and parks would be just as overgrown making it impossible to enjoy our community green space.

1. Your pest control operator will first identify the problem: What is the bug or rodent infiltrating your surroundings?
2. Your pest control professional will select the right product. He will choose a product that is designed to control the specific pest you are targeting.

What does the pesticide do?

Pesticides provide protection for you and your family against disease and infection caused by insects, rodents and some weeds, while also keeping your outdoor spaces accessible and enjoyable.

Who regulates pesticides and their use? How much testing is done before they are available to the public?

The leading federal agency that regulates pesticide registration and use is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is represented in Hawaii by the Hawaii State Agriculture Department, Pesticide Branch.

Pesticides are rigorously tested for their potential human health and environmental impact before they can be registered and sold for use. The pesticides available for you to use in your home have been determined by the Environmental Protection Agency to have a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health. Product registration by the EPA can take up to 10 years and involves up to 120 different tests and studies that can take years to complete. More details about the EPA’s testing process are available on the agency website.

What is IPM?

IPM or Integrated Pest Management, is a strategic process for attaining long-term pest control by implementing different tools and practices, using pesticides only when necessary. This process involves five (5) steps:

1. Initial inspection to identify pests that are present
2. Analysis of the risks involved with the pest’s presence
3. Initiating and maintaining preventative and control steps to keep the pest at an acceptable tolerance level
4. Utilization of pesticides is always the last tool used
5. Long-term monitoring

Basically, IPM creates a process for schools and others to follow to make sure they are making good decisions about pest control and pesticide use.

Do pesticides affect the environment?

The EPA review process rigorously tests all pesticides for potential environmental impact before the product can be registered. Product registration by the EPA can take up to 10 years and involves up to 120 different tests and studies over the course of weeks, months, or even years. And once a product is registered, the EPA continues to study and test the pesticide to ensure its human and environmental safety.

What else should I be doing to control pests?

A few simple steps can help prevent pest problems, including:

• Sealing cracks and holes on the outside of your home
• Keeping branches well-trimmed and away from structures
• Keeping attics well-ventilated and dry
• Storing garbage in a sealed container and disposing of it regularly

Similar to the effectiveness of preventative health measures, these steps aren’t fool-proof for preventing pest problems. When insects, rodents and weeds reach a certain level, it’s necessary to find a way to control them.

Long term monitoring is to ensure long term pest control and is a vital step in the IPM process to detect resurgence of pests.

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