Sandwich baggies of rat poison, old containers of insecticides with missing labels, illegal pesticides smuggled in from China and Latin America, and products containing EPA regulated chemicals have all been found on Craigslist. These items are dangerous and all belong either in the hands of a trained and licensed professional or in hazardous waste disposal. That baggie of “rat poison” is as potentially harmful to a kid as a loaded handgun. Yes, there are pesticides on the shelves of most hardware stores that also have the potential to harm, so what do we have against Craigslist? The same three things we have against purchasing pesticides on Ebay, at the flea market, or at a yard sale: label, age, and origin.
First, the label. Pesticides are highly regulated for good reason: they kill things. When the label directions for dilution and application are followed, pesticides can be very effective against the target pests while minimizing the risk to other critters. Products purchased from secondary sources often have missing or damaged labels. Worse, they may not be in the original container (such as that baggie of rat poison).
Second, age. Yes, chemicals age, breakdown, and expire. And are taken off the market! Some people still have containers of diazinon in their garage despite the fact that it was taken off the market 10 years ago. Old containers of this insecticide are still offered for sale. Just because the label is intact, doesn’t make it less dangerous for household use.
Third, origin. Because of the money involved, counterfeit pesticides have become a big business.
” Counterfeit pesticides are produced and packaged to look like legal products, but their contents may not match their labels. Counterfeit products may have less active ingredient than the legal version or they may contain cheaper, possibly more toxic, active ingredients. Because of this, counterfeit pesticides can be ineffective or dangerous to people, pets and the environment.”–National Pesticide Information Center
Products purchased by licensed pest control operators and products purchased from reputable stores are very unlikely to be counterfeit, and are definitely legal to use. Not so with products purchased on secondary markets. “Miraculous Insecticide Chalk” is really easy to find online, dangerous (not miraculous), and absolutely illegal. That baggie of rat poison? It probably contains an illegally imported pesticide called Tres Pasitos. The active ingredient is aldicarb. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, “The EPA considers aldicarb to be a very toxic chemical that should never be used in your home. Children and pets are especially vulnerable to poisoning by Tres Pasitos…Touching, breathing or swallowing even a small amount of Tres Pasitos can cause vomiting, weakness, dizziness, sweating, and shortness of breath. If you suspect someone was exposed to Tres Pasitos, call the Poison Control Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222 for medical advice.”
Sometimes pest control is a do-it-yourself activity. When it is, purchase products from a reputable source and follow the label directions. When in doubt, call the people who deal with pests and pest control products every day–trained and licensed pest control operators.