Pesticide spills

Last updated on January 15, 2021

Prevent spills

Pesticide spills can harm your health, crops, community, and environment. They can also be difficult and costly to clean up. Prevent pesticide spills by transporting, storing and handling pesticides properly. Make sure pesticides are secure during transport. Drive appropriately for road conditions. Have suitable shelving and lighting in the storage area. Follow laws and safety guidelines when storing pesticides. Have a good loading platform where you fill the sprayer. Make sure application equipment does not have faulty hoses or valves. Mix, load and apply pesticides carefully to minimize the chance of spills. Review pesticide Safety Precautions regularly.  

Be prepared for spills

  1. Develop a spill response plan.
    It will help guide you if there is a spill. The plan should explain:
  • How to prevent spills
  • Who to contact if there is a spill
  • How to contain the spill
  • How to clean up the spill
  • Where critical or sensitive areas are on your farm
  • How often the plan will be updated.
  1. Have spill cleanup kit(s)
    Keep a spill cleanup kit in a vehicle when transporting pesticides, in the pesticide storage area, and at the mixing and loading areas. A spill cleanup kit can be purchased from some farm supply stores or can be made from easily obtainable items. A pesticide spill cleanup kit should contain:
  • personal protective equipment (e.g. unlined gloves, rubber boots, a respirator, protective eyewear, disposable coveralls),
  • dry absorbent material such as sawdust, vermiculite, dry coarse clay, kitty litter, commercial absorbent, newspapers or paper towels,
  • lime, chlorine bleach or washing soda to decontaminate spill areas,
  • broom and scoop or shovel to pick up the contaminated material,
  • a container with lid (i.e. 20 L pail or heavy duty garbage bag) to put the contaminated waste in. This container can also be used to store contents of the spill kit,
  • A felt pen to write the name of the spilled pesticide on the container,
  • A list of emergency phone numbers
  1. Post emergency phone numbers by each telephone and at the storage shed. Include phone numbers for the Poison Control Centre, doctor, Fire/Police/Ambulance (911), and Emergency Management BC.
  2. Compile a list of pesticide company emergency phone numbers. Pesticide labels have an emergency phone number(s) on them. Read your pesticide labels and record the registration numbers, the company name, and the pesticide name. In an emergency it may take too long to find phone numbers on the labels or the labels may be damaged. Keep these phone numbers in the spill contingency plan and spill kits.
  3. Ask your pesticide dealer for copies of the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the pesticides on the farm. Keep these in a convenient location.
  4. Design the mixing area to contain spills. Consider installing a containment pad for mixing and loading. This pad would contain any spill at the application site.
  5. Regularly review First Aid Procedures for pesticides spilled onto skin or splashed into eyes.
  6. Read the pesticide label before using a pesticide.

Dealing with a pesticide spill

Act quickly. The sooner the spill is controlled, the less damage it can cause.

  1. Protect yourself against pesticide contamination. Put on personal protective gear including chemical-resistant gloves and the disposable coveralls. If a respirator is normally used when applying the pesticide, wear a respirator to clean up the spill. Do not smoke, drink or eat during the clean-up. Work up-wind of the spilled material.
  2. If a pesticide spilled onto a person, have the person remove contaminated clothing. Thoroughly wash the skin with soap and water and follow the first aid directions for skin exposure. If a person inhaled the pesticide take them to fresh air and follow the first aid directions for inhalation.
  3. If the spill is inside, ventilate the area by opening doors and windows and using the fans if necessary.
  4. Keep bystanders and animals away from the spill. Do not let people walk or drive through the spilled material.
  5. Control the spill. Eliminate the source of the spill if possible. If a pesticide container, bag, small sprayer or applicator tips over, quickly set it upright to stop more pesticide from spilling out.
  6. Contain the spill. Prevent the spilled material from spreading more. If the spill is near a sensitive area such as a creek or pond, first divert the spill away from the sensitive area. Surround the spilled pesticide with a barrier so it cannot spread. Use the materials in the spill kit or material such as soil, peat moss, sawdust, newspapers, etc. Absorb or soak up as much liquid pesticide as possible by covering it with absorbent material. Don’t use absorbent material if a dry pesticide formulation was spilled.
  7. Do not apply water to the spilled pesticide. Water will spread the spill further.
  8. If the spill is in a public area like on a highway, call the local police. Call Emergency Management BC at 1-800-663-3456 if you need advice or help and to report spills of more than 1 litre or 1 kilogram of pesticide. Call the nearest office of the Ministry of Environment if you need information on disposing of the spilled material.
  9. Begin cleaning up the spill as soon as the spill is under control. Sweep up dry pesticides or the absorbent material. Some dry pesticides may still be able to be used. Place the waste materials into an empty waterproof container or strong garbage bag. Label the container with the name of the pesticide, the registration number, and the approximate amount of pesticide that was spilled. Contact the Ministry Environment for advice on disposing of the contaminated material. If the spill occurs directly on the soil, dig up and remove the contaminated soil. Cover the area with at least 5 cm of lime. Cover the lime with fresh topsoil. Put the contaminated soil in a strong container, label it as above and dispose of it according to Ministry of Environment directions.
  10. Decontaminate the contaminated area. Check the pesticide label and material safety data sheet (MSDS) for information on cleaning up spills. Form a dam around the contaminated area so cleanup does not spread the pesticide. Many pesticide contaminated areas can be cleaned up washing the area with a mixture of household bleach, detergent and water. Only use a little liquid. Cover the clean-up solution with absorbent material and then put the absorbent material into the disposal container with the other contaminated materials. Contact the Ministry of Environment or the manufacturer for advice.
  11. Decontaminate all equipment used in the cleanup. Remove and wash protective gear. Change clothing immediately. Launder clothing as soon as possible. Discard any badly contaminated clothing or equipment (i.e. broom). Shower using lots of soap and water.
  12. Re-evaluate your pesticide handling procedures and your spill contingency plan. Restock your spill kit.
Report a spill

ALL environmental emergencies must be reported, including pesticide spills over 1 litre or 1 kilogram:

BC Poison Control Centre

Call the Poison Control Centre if you suspect someone has been poisoned by a medicine, chemical or other substance.