Garden green

Now that spring is in full bloom, gardeners are looking for safe ways to keep pests at bay. We went to an expert for tips on how to garden the green way.

EcoSMART founder and Eco-Dad Steve Bessette shares his expert insight to help you shop for non-toxic pest controls to keep your family and pets safe and free from pesky pests!
Seven tips to finding a safer pest control product
1. Before buying a pesticide, always read the entire label.
Often consumers are swayed to purchase products based on brand names, marketing claims, or images. That can be problematic when choosing a pesticide, given the potential health risks. It is important to read the entire label before buying a pesticide, not just the front label. And make sure you read the ingredients list and all the precautionary statements. If there are major precautionary statements or warnings, there are likely to be toxic ingredients in the product. Also, pay close attention to the product’s “duration of control” listing, as this is an indicator how long harmful pesticide residues will remain after spraying. Think about it: if the product claims to kill insects for up to four weeks, how long will it be dangerous to people and pets?
2. What is in that pesticide product? You need to know!
While reviewing a product’s contents is important for most anything you buy, it is especially important when it comes to pesticides, given where these types of products are applied (i.e. inside a home, around the home, in the yard, etc). Carefully read the product’s ingredient list, paying particular attention to the active vs. inactive ingredients. Non-toxic products will also list all their inert ingredients. Synthetic products will have man-made active ingredients unfamiliar to you, and these products do not list any of their inert ingredients. This may indicate they are trying to hide something. Also, familiarize yourself with the Pesticide Action Network Pesticide Database ( and become accustomed to cross-referencing ingredients to learn about their safety profiles and true toxicity.
3. Make sure you have the right product for your specific insect pest problem!
Pesticides are specifically formulated to fight a specific pest, so picking the correct product will ensure that you don’t waste time, resources, and money on an ineffective product. Follow the label use directions carefully. Incorrect usage can increase your exposure to potentially harmful ingredients.
4. An EPA registration number on a label does not mean the product is “approved” or is regarded as “safe” by the EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for ensuring that a pesticide, when used according to label directions, can be used with a reasonable certainty of no unreasonable adverse effects on human health, and no unreasonable risks to the environment. The EPA does not “approve” pesticides, nor does it classify them as “safe” during registration. It only registers them for use in the U.S. per label directions. The EPA has identified a class of “minimum risk” ingredients that are safe enough to be classified as exempt from EPA registration due to their safety profile. EcoSMART products are comprised of such ingredients and qualify for the EPA exemption.
5. Look for products that specify “safety” on the label, to know the product meets the government’s highest safety standard. The EPA has designated Minimum Risk pesticides and afforded them special regulatory status. Only Minimum Riskpesticides that qualify for the government’s highest safety standard can be labeled as SAFE. If there are no safety claims on the label, read all those precautionary statements closely!
6. Don’t be fooled by Imposters! Even though a product boasts ‘natural’ or ‘eco’ on its label, it could still contain harmful ingredients. Here are some tell-tale signs of imposters:
Claims of persistence in the environment or harmful residue concerns.
WARNING or CAUTION statements on the front of the label.
Precautionary language is often hidden on the back of the label. Look for things like:  ENVIRONMENATAL HAZARDS TO DOMESTIC ANIMALS or PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL HAZARDS. “FIRST AID” language if product is swallowed inhaled or gets in eyes or on clothing with directions to call a poison control center or a doctor should be noted too. Remember: If the label does not specifically say “SAFE” (i.e. Safe Around Children & Pets), the product does not qualify for the Government’s highest safety standard.
7. Never stop asking questions. New studies and new products are being introduced each and every day, and it is your responsibility as a consumer to stay educated. Ask questions, research products and ingredients on-line, and stay up-to-date with the industry to ensure that you are using the safest, most effective products on the market.
There is no need to poison you or environment to have a pretty garden or a clean house. Read the labels then buy!
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