Know the Law Before Using Pesticides
Q: Can I be held legally responsible for problems which arise from my use of lawn and garden pesticides?
A: Yes. Ohio law makes it unlawful for any person to apply a pesticide negligently or in a way that is inconsistent with the pesticide’s label instructions. If you violate this law, you can be found guilty of a criminal misdemeanor, which could result in fines or jail time, particularly if it is a second offense. If your misuse of a pesticide threatens or destroys wildlife, you may be prosecuted under the Ohio Wildlife law. Common violations of this law include pesticide “drift” onto a neighbor’s property and ingestion of pesticide granules by pets or wildlife.
Q: Will my homeowner’s insurance policy cover any damage I might cause with pesticides?
A: Possibly not, unless you have special coverage. Most standard homeowner's policies contain an “environmental exclusion” for activities that may cause damage to the environment. Your insurance agent can possibly extend your coverage to include pesticide accidents, but your premium may be increased.
Q: How can I tell if I may use a pesticide for lawn and garden use?
A: Please read the label. Every pesticide must be registered for use in Ohio. The label prescribes when, where and how the pesticide can be applied. The label may even provide information about which animals or non-target plants might be harmed by exposure. Pesticides labeled as "restricted-use" pesticides may only be applied by a licensed individual. If the compound has no label (or if the label cannot be deciphered), you are probably violating the law by applying it. Also, many pesticides such as D.D.T. and Chlordane, which were once legal to apply, have since been banned. It is illegal to apply banned pesticides even though the label may suggest that the product is safe for an intended use. If you have questions about the use or application of a pesticide, please contact your county O.S.U. Extension Office, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (phone number: 614-728-6987), or a licensed pesticide applicator.
Q: Can I be held responsible if I hire a commercial pesticide applicator?
A: Under Ohio law, a company must hold a pesticide business license and employ at least one commercial applicator. The business is responsible to maintain insurance for pesticide applications, and commercial pesticide applicators are responsible to make pesticide applications or directly supervise trained service persons while making pesticide applications. Since 1989, licensed applicators have been required to place signs on treated lawns to warn passers-by that pesticides have been applied. If you hire a commercial business, it is likely the commercial pesticide business will be held responsible for any pesticide law violations that arise on your property. However, also note, USEPA has suggested that businesses employing commercial applicators that violate the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) may also be the subject of federal charges.
This "Law You Can Use" consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Columbus attorneys J. Anthony Logan, State Director, Rural Development, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and Timothy G. Schirmer, Senior Staff Counsel, Ohio Department of Agriculture.