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Are Insecticides Harmful To Plants, Pets, Or Humans?

Finding the safest and most effective ways to keep bugs off your plants can be tricky. Do you think it's time to use an insecticide but don't know whether it's harmful to your plants? What about pets and people? Are insecticides safe to use if you have younger children?

We will answer all of these questions, among others, throughout this post.

Since an insecticide needs to be powerful enough to kill bugs, it can be strong enough also to affect people and pets. Additionally, your insecticide has to biologically target these critters, meaning it needs a level of toxicity to work.

Therefore, many insecticide products have stern warnings for people, pets, and other living things anywhere near their application. So, remember to be very cautious while using one.

As we start this article, we'll cover all things insecticides and discuss whether they're harmful to plants, people, and pets. If you're struggling with an infestation and don't know where to turn, you've come to the right place. With that said, let's dive head first into this topic below!

Farmer spraying vegetable green plants in the garden with herbicides, pesticides or insecticides., Are Insecticides Harmful To Plants, Pets, Or Humans?

Are Insecticides Dangerous?

Back yard disinfection for viruses

Since insecticides are chemicals that harm/kill bugs, they can become dangerous. In general, insecticide products will have a certain level of toxicity, as this is what makes them effective.

If your product isn't dangerous to an extent, it won't likely get rid of the pests you're targeting. So, that leads to safety concerns for everyone else nearby: is it safe to use insecticides?

Most importantly, insecticides aren't necessarily harmful to people or pets unless ingested. If you, another person, or an animal gets into the insecticide and swallows it, that's when you should take more dramatic action.

It's likely for an insecticide to cause poisoning if you swallow it, so expect these symptoms:

  • Runny eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Heart issues
  • Breathing trouble
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

These are typical symptoms for someone who swallows poison, so you want to treat this like any case of toxicity in your system. If you feel like you're experiencing any of these symptoms due to using or ingesting an insecticide, call the Poison Control Centers at this number (800) 222-1222.

On top of ingesting insecticides, you might also become ill if one seeps into your skin or you inhale it. Again, this can become murky territory, as not all insecticides will make your body react the same way.

It's better to be safe than sorry, so we recommend reaching out to a medical professional if you're feeling off after using an insect killer.

Is Insecticide Harmful To Plants?

Farmer in protective clothes spray pesticides.

Depending on how potent your insecticide is, it can cause harm to your plants. Suppose you have a flowering bush and start to see bite marks on all the foliage and blooms.

Over time, these tiny bite marks become entire sections of your one-gorgeous plant ravished by who knows what. Your first instinct is to purchase an insecticide.

If your product is too strong/chemically potent, you might kill the bugs and your plant. Not only is this common, but it affects gardeners will infestations of all sizes.

Therefore, you want to make sure you read the directions on your bug killer, so this doesn't occur.

Luckily, there are natural/less toxic insecticides on the market, although they might take more frequent applications. Generally, when a product promises a one-application kill, it will be super strong.

Even though that may sound good, too much strength can shock your plant and poison it.

How Does Insecticide Affect Plant Growth?

On top of being potentially harmful to you and your pets, insecticides can also negatively affect the plants you use them on. According to SciELO, insecticides can lead to a reduction of chlorophyll and protein contents in a plant.

That can then affect your plant's photosynthesis rate and production, leading to stunted growth. Many experts refer to this as 'pesticide stress.'

When the chemicals of your product become overpowering, they can attack the physiology and structure of your plant. Moreover, these toxic chemicals can also cause distributions for a plant's reproduction, meaning they won't multiply or even bloom/fruit.

So, if you don't want to harm your plant, we recommend choosing a product with less harmful chemicals and ingredients.

What Happens If My Pet Gets Into An Insecticide?

A yellow yard sign warning kids and pets of the recent pesticide spraying and advices them to stay away.

One of the main things you want to worry about when using pesticides is your animals. Similar to when people ingest toxic chemicals, your pets will also experience noticeable poisoning symptoms.

These include:

  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Unusual behavior

If you notice your pet acting strange or becoming violently ill, you must immediately take them to an animal hospital. Pets don't have the same instincts as humans when it comes to this, so the best thing you can do is get them to a safe, stable location.

Generally, your pet will show signs of poisoning within 15-30 minutes of ingesting insecticide. During this time, keep a close eye on your animal and make sure they continue breathing.

As we said, you need to take a poisoned animal to a vet or hospital the second you notice something wrong. If you wait too long, your pet will likely have severe, long-term damage due to this poisoning.

Luckily, if you follow these steps, your pet should recover under the direct care of a medical professional.

To prevent poisoning, we recommend storing all chemical insecticides in a locked cabinet where a dog, cat, or other animals won't be able to access them.

How Long After Spraying Insecticide Is It Safe For Pets?

If you're treating a section of your garden for pests with a chemical product, you need to wait at least 24 hours before letting any animals near it.

During this time, refrain from letting your pets outdoors where they can easily access the affected plants. Generally, your insecticide will come with aftercare instructions, which detail how long they need to be left alone.

Following these guidelines is imperative, as poisoning is likely if a pet licks, eats, or comes in close contact with insecticides during its first day or two.

According to Pesticon, some more potent insect killers need 48 hours of sitting before animals can safely go near them, so that's a long time.

This will be different for everyone, so pay close attention to your insecticide care instructions.

How Long Do Pesticides Stay In The Air After Spraying?

Farmer with protective gloves spraying a blooming fruit tree against plant diseases and pests.

If you use an aerosol pesticide product, expect it to linger in the air for roughly 30-45 minutes. Of course, this can depend on the formula and toxicity of a product, so you might be waiting closer to an hour.

Generally, pesticides go right onto the affected plant and won't cause too much of a mess nearby. Again, this varies and can be different depending on how your product is designed.

As we mentioned before, breathing in pesticides is another way to become poisoned. Whether it's by standing too close during a spray or immediately after, a pesticide is not something to take lightly.

Therefore, we recommend staying clear of the area for 30 minutes, along with your pets, children/other housemates.

In addition, if the plant you spray borders your neighbors, let them know you've sprayed as well. The last thing you want is for someone else to become ill because they weren't aware of what was happening.

What Happens If Insecticide Touches Your Skin?

Suppose you apply insecticide to your plants and get some on your bare skin. If/when this occurs, it's best to find a sink and immediately wash your hands, arms, and other affected skin area.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), insecticides may cause skin issues, including swelling, redness, itching, pain, and blistering.

Think of this as similar to a chemical burn. The best course of action you can take is to wash off the area with soap and water, apply a topical ointment, and wait it out.

If the symptoms become worse, that is when we recommend going to urgent care or the hospital.

Even though you haven't technically consumed poison, letting a product seep into your skin can lead to poison in your bloodstream.

The skin is a barrier to our vital internal arteries and systems, so treat it with caution and protection.

Are All Insecticides Poisonous?

Woman spraying plants using water pulverizer

Although different products may advertise as less toxic than others, any insecticide you use will have a poisonous characteristic. Considering your insect-killing product needs to do its job, you can expect toxic chemicals inside one.

Therefore, we recommend keeping away from insecticides and protecting your animals. Even insecticides with natural ingredients can be poisonous to humans and animals.

The primary purpose of these products is to attack critters at a biological level, often targeting the nervous system. Unfortunately, that can also apply to humans and animals and poisoning symptoms.

The best thing to do when working with or around insecticides is to be cautious and don't touch, taste, or smell the product. You may even want to hire a professional to apply one to your plants so you don't have to worry about poisoning.

To Wrap Things Up

Whether you have a pest invasion, plants with strange bite marks, or need to keep seasonal bugs at bay, using an insecticide feels like the first and only choice.

From what we found, insecticides will be harmful to humans, plants, and animals to a certain degree. Since the purpose of your product is to kill bugs, there's no surprise that these toxic ingredients can also harm you.

Moreover, you want to stay far away from insect killers for about 30-45 minutes as a human and 24-48 hours as an animal. If you ingest, inhale, or touch poison, we recommend contacting a health professional ASAP.

Made it this far? Check out these other helpful garden articles below:

5 Best Systematic Insecticides For Leaf Miners

15 Best Palm Tree Insecticides That Can Save Your Trees

What Is Eating My Bean Sprouts? [And How To Prevent It]