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Know before you buy – not all pesticides are registered as safe and effective

Examples of unregulated pesticide products in chalk, liquid, and powder form

You might assume that the products you purchase online are safe, effective, and legal. That’s not always the case.

It's a familiar scene—one day, you wake up and find ants crawling around in your kitchen. You know that you have to do something fast! Having ants in your kitchen can be a real headache, especially when you realize that the one or two ants you see are just a small sign of an even bigger problem. You start searching for ant killer online, and you buy the product that comes up first in your search results. Like most people, you probably assume that the products you purchase online are safe and legal. That’s not always the case. 

In January, the Seattle Office of the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Amazon to stop selling illegal pesticides on its website. All pesticides sold in the United States are supposed to be registered with the EPA to ensure they are safe and effective. Between 2013 and 2018, the EPA claimed that Amazon had over 4,000 products that violated these rules. The illegal pesticide problem has decreased in recent years, but it has not disappeared. Amazon removed the illegal products from its site, but the EPA is warning shoppers that other online retailers are still selling them.  

Choosing safer pesticide products can be challenging because there is much conflicting information on the internet and the media. Some pesticides are advertised as organic, green, or natural to make them seem safer than traditional pesticides. Still, some may also have significant hazards. If you purchased a pesticide product that you’re unsure about, call the Hazardous Waste Line at 206-296-4692 or drop it off for safe disposal at a hazardous waste collection site. 

Next time you are confronted with unwanted pests in your home or yard, use these tips to make shopping safer: 

  • Look for an EPA registration number on the pesticide's container. The EPA registration number is not an endorsement, but it shows that the product has been reviewed and approved by the EPA. 
  • Read the label, and look for the signal words CAUTION, WARNING, DANGER, or POISON. Products that don't have these words are the safest. Products labeled CAUTION or WARNING are somewhat toxic. Products labeled DANGER or POISON are the most harmful for you and your family. 
  • Choose greener methods to control pests. Check out these short videos for easy, chemical-free pest control in your home and garden. You can also visit the Garden Hotline website or call 206-633-0221 for safe and effective solutions to yard and garden pest problems.  

Photo credit: Unearthed by Greenpeace

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