The word "pesticides" is commonly used to refer to many types of pest control products, like:
- herbicides to control weeds
- insecticides to control bugs
- fungicides to control plant diseases
- electronic insect or rodent devices
- wood and material preservatives to prevent rot
- rodenticides to control rats, mice, and other rodents
Pesticides are made from active ingredients that are:
- man-made or synthetic, and
- naturally occurring, or biochemical
For example, the lawn care chemical 2,4-D is synthetic, while a pesticide with acetic acid which is found in vinegar, can be naturally occurring.
What are pesticides used for?
Pesticides touch many aspects of our lives: from the apple in our lunch box, to the products used to keep the water clean in our pools and spas.
Pests like carpenter ants, rats, and aphids can affect our quality of life in many ways. They can damage buildings, spread disease and kill crops and trees. Controlling pests is important for protecting our health and maintaining our food supply. Forestry and agriculture also need effective pest control methods.
When other methods fail to prevent, control or destroy pests, pesticides are often used. Some pesticides can be used around your home. Others are only for commercial and restricted use.
Regulating pesticide safety
Like many chemicals, pesticides can be hazardous if not used properly, and may harm people and the environment.
Health Canada regulates pesticides under the authority of the Pest Control Products Act.
We use the latest evidence-based scientific approaches to pesticide regulation (to protect the health and environment of Canadians), in an open and transparent manner.
We will only register a pest control product if scientific evidence confirms that its use will not harm the health and environment of Canadians when it is used as directed on the label.
When registering pest control products, Health Canada applies strict health and safety standards to protect everyone. This includes vulnerable groups, like infants and children, pregnant and nursing mothers, and seniors.
Some products require safety precautions, which is why it is important to follow all label warnings and instructions.
Here are some general safety tips:
- Keep children, pregnant and nursing women, seniors and people who often have allergic reactions out of the area when applying pesticides.
- People should stay out of the treated area for a minimum of 12 hours after the pesticide has been applied, unless a longer time is specified on the label.
- Keep all pesticides in their original containers, out of reach of children and pets.
Before a pesticide is authorized for use, Health Canada scientists review information about how the pesticide might change and move through the environment as well as the effects the pesticide might have on non-target forms of life.
Canadian environmental data requirements for major forestry and agricultural uses of chemical pesticides have been harmonized with those of the United States, and are similar to those of other pesticide regulatory systems.
Ongoing monitoring of incidents
To continue to monitor for safety after pesticides are registered, Health Canada analyzes all incidents reported by Canadians and by pesticide companies with registered products.
Analysis of all incidents related to an active ingredient or pesticide also forms part of the review for applications to register or renew products.
Health Canada has been collecting pesticide incident reports since 2007. We publish annual incident reports that provide a general overview of the incident reports received, and our assessment of the more serious Canadian incident reports.
Only use a registered product
To use pesticides safely, make sure you use a registered product, and read and follow all label directions. You can recognize a pest control product authorized by Health Canada by the Pest Control Products (PCP) number on the label, for example:
- Reg. No. 00000 P.C.P. Act
- Registration No. 00000 Pest Control Products Act
Unregistered pesticides may make false claims and may not be safe to use.
Buying pesticides online
There are many websites that sell pest control products. If you buy a pesticide over the Internet, check to see if it is authorized for use in Canada.
Also check with your province, territory or municipality since they may place restrictions on the use of certain registered pesticides.
Preparing, storing, and using homemade pesticides can be dangerous to your health and the environment. Homemade pesticides do not undergo any testing. They do not have label directions to help you use them safely, and, they may not be effective. Learn more about the risks of homemade pesticides.
Side effects and reporting incidents
If pesticides are used according to label directions, you should not experience any side effects. If pesticides are not used properly, or if there is a problem with the pesticide itself, you could be overexposed and experience health problems.
Some people may be more sensitive to chemicals in general, and may have allergic reactions or other health effects. Important!
If you notice health problems and suspect overexposure to a pesticide, get medical help right away:
- call a poison control centre right away and get medical help
- follow the first aid statements on the label
- bring the pesticide label or container with you to the emergency room or doctor
- in case of accidental poisoning of animals, get veterinary help right away
Report problems with pesticides to the manufacturer listed on the label. They must report them to Health Canada. Damaged or defective packaging should also be reported.
You can also report problems to Health Canada. Have the label information for the specific product involved available when you call or write.
Have questions about pesticide safety or want to report a pesticide being misused? Contact the Pest Management Information Service.
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