Communicating to your clientele about the pesticides that you apply can be an arduous task. There is often much emotion, confusion and concern on the part of individuals that ask questions about the products that are being applied to turfgrass. Answering these questions in a way that reassures the client takes some thought and preparation in the form of knowledge about the products that you use.
First and foremost, if someone asks what you are applying you should be able to answer, using precise terms, the name of the product, the active ingredient in the product, and preferably some information about the intended target and mode of action of the product. It is also a very good idea to have a label available should they wish to read it. If someone asks about the safety of the product, that is a more difficult question to answer because, unfortunately, "safe” means something different to everybody. Remember that all pesticides have some level of toxicity and thus the risk depends on two things: The toxicity of the product itself, and a person’s exposure to it.
When explaining toxicity, remember that everything is toxic. It is the dosage that determines at what level a particular substance becomes toxic. There is a lot of confusion about pesticide toxicity and a general attitude that pesticides must be about the most toxic of substances that we encounter in our daily lives. In reality, when looking at the actual active ingredient, many of our pesticides are less toxic to humans than things such as gasoline, bleach, aspirin and other commonly found household products. However, while the active ingredient might be less toxic, there may be other additives in the formulated pesticide that result in the product requiring a caution, warning, or danger label and thus the formulated product requires a particular level of respect and responsibility when used. You should reassure the client that all of the proper precautions that are required by law for the safe use of the product are being followed.
If you get questions about long term exposure effects (ie is it a carcinogen) or possible contamination of the environment you can point out that the U.S. EPA requires that pesticides undergo years of testing to determine if any hazards to humans, animals, fish, birds, or the environment exists and that if any are found, the usage of that pesticide is either restricted or banned.
The bottom line is that if you are using the pesticide according to the label and following all laws that govern its application, registered pesticides are considered reasonable safe. More information is presented about this subject at the Ohio Pesticide Safety Education Programs http://pested.osu.edu/ and the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference and Show www.otfshow.org.