Amateur use of pesticides

Under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 and 1997 (as amended) it is an offence for a ‘professional use only’ pesticide to be used by someone who is not a professional user. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines a professional user as someone who is trained and competent to carry out the work they are called on to do and uses the product as part of their work.

However, it is not an offence for a pesticide manufacturer or distributor to sell or supply a ‘professional use only’ pesticide to an unqualified purchaser and there is no existing regime which actively monitors the use of professional use only pesticides to ensure that they are not used illegally by amateurs. As a result, ‘professional use only pesticides’ are regularly being offered for sale to amateurs at country fairs, on the internet and through other means.

The CIEH has a considerable concern about this, in particular as regards rodenticides (rat poison.) Research has shown that amateur users often adulterate rodenticides, believing it will make them more palatable. Some amateur users believe it is good practice to keep rodenticides topped up so that there is bait available at all times. Such ineffective treatments are likely to increase resistance, leading to the need to use more rodenticide in the environment. Another problem is that amateur users are less likely to interpret safety instructions on correctly and are less likely to understand how to use the products to best effect.

For example, in order to control rodent infestations effectively a block treatment programme is required. If some householders in the block treat their individual dwellings in isolation, the rodents in neighbouring properties that have not encountered the rodenticide will soon invade and infest those properties and the householder will buy more and more bait, but never achieve control. As the infestation continues those residents that are purchasing baits may use it in ways that are not specified on the label. Thus relying on individual DIY action is not likely to lead to effective control of infestations. This increase in misuse and abuse is particularly important in the case of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides because of their toxicity to humans and non-target species.

The CIEH believes that it should be illegal to sell or supply ‘professional use only pesticides’ to unqualified persons and that an effective enforcement regime should be introduced to control this.

If you are intending to use pesticides of any description you must make sure that they are kept, used and disposed of strictly in accordance with their instructions.

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