What to do before, during and after aerial toxic spraying

Pesticide Drift, article in Journal of Pesticide Reform, Spring 1995

Below are some ideas for what to do before, during and after aerial pesticide spraying if thetoxic-chemical sign spraying is unavoidable. This method is used to control vegetation on tree farms, along with other alternative methods: cutting competing vegetation manually or mechanically, “spot-spraying” a smaller amount of selected plants on the ground, letting the trees grow longer and be tighter grained and of higher quality, using selective logging instead of clearcuting, planting a multiple species forest.

Before spraying:

  • Find out what might be happening near you by checking the SVENA website, FPAs page, and/or DNR FPARS database. (If you sign up to be a FPARS reviewer, you will be notified in advance by DNR, based on the reviewer profile you set up, about applications of interest to you. You may need to ask that the spraying applicant notifies you closer to the actual application, as spraying permits are good for 3 years.) Please see three simple steps for becoming FPARS reviewer.

  • Communicate individually or through SVENA with the prospective sprayer about your concerns, where you live, where you get your water, and that drift or contamination of non-target lands or resources is NOT acceptable. Request that they do not aerially spray pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, or insecticides), but instead use alternative methods for controlling vegetation at tree farms (see above). Contamination of watersheds with sources of drinking water is illegal.

Chapter 35.88 RCW “Water Pollution—Protection From”
RCW 70.54.010 “Polluting Water Supply – Penalty”

  • Contact Neil Lanning, WA Dep. of Ag., Pesticide Compliance Division nlanning@agr.wa.gov 360-688-0103, and request that a representative of the Division comes to observe/witness the spray, to document observations, and to take at least 5 samples of foliage and 5 samples of surface water before and after the spray. If possible and reasonable, those samples should be taken at the closest locations to the spraying. All samples should be analized for active ingredients of the spray by the Department of Agricuture. Please see FPA for a list of chemicals.

  • Contact press and elected officials, invite each one of them to observe/witness the spray and send them the Fact Sheet “Some of Most Probable Active Ingredients vs. Human Health Effects” (see below).

Contact List for Press and Elected

Fact Sheet, Some of Most Probable Active Ingredients vs. Human Health Effects 

  • Communicate with your neighbors and any other concerned citizens about the pending spray.

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  • Depending on the location of the spray,  your proximity to it, and direction of wind, you might choose to leave the area before spraying and stay away for the whole duration of the spraying. Children and pregnant women are the most sensitive to toxic chemicals and should be kept away.

  • If you know a spray is planned near you, take “before” photographs of your trees, garden, etc. just in case any of your plants are harmed by herbicide drift. It can be a good way to document drift.

During spraying:

  • If an outdoor pesticide release is ongoing in close proximity to you, stay inside. Shut all windows and doors and turn off the AC/HVAC system to avoid breathing toxic fumes. Take and keep all people and pets inside, if you can.
  • Document as much as possible, from what you can safely observe from inside. Take photographs, if you can see the spraying happening. Write down what you observe, including time and dates of spraying, temperature, weather conditions, wind speed and direction if you know that information.

After spraying:

  • If you have been exposed, wash off the pesticide with a lot of clean water,  especially nose, mouth, eyes and skin.

  • Do not touch, breath, eat or drink anything that has pesticide in or on it. Wash contaminated objects with a lot of clean water. Protect and cover your skin and eyes during washing activities.

  • To prove contamination by toxic chemicals, you should take samples as soon as possible after the spray is done and before it rains. Using rubber gloves, take at least 3 samples of contaminated foliage, put in clean zipper bags, mark location/time on each bag, and freeze the bags. Take at least 3 samples of contaminated surface soil, put in clean containers, mark location/time, freeze. Take at least 3 samples of contaminated surface water, put in  clean containers, mark location/time, freeze. Contact Neil Lanning, WA Dep. of Ag., Pesticide Compliance Division nlanning@agr.wa.gov 360-688-0103, file a complaint for drift/contamination and request analysis of samples for sprayed chemicals. See more inormation below.

  • Contact the party responsible (contact info is on FPA – Forest Practice Application) and ask what chemicals were used, in some cases more than one pesticide can be used. If you do not have FPA, Neil Lanning, WA Dep. of Ag., Pesticide Compliance Division should be able to help with this.

  • You should contact your primary care provider if you experience any ill health effects, including but not limited to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. For some pesticides, antidotes can be administered. Keep results of any related lab work.

  • Communicate with your neighbors and with SVENA. Sharing observations can be helpful, if there was drift.

  • Photograph your plants again, soon after the spray and several days to a week later (if drift occurs, it can take several days to show damage to non-target plants).

  • Write down what happened. Keep written notes of all related phone conversations, emails, etc. Follow up phone conversations with an email or letter, summarizing the conversation.

  • Report the incident to the WA Department of Agriculture if you believe drift has occurred. (Drift may affect non-target water and/or vegetation.)

  • If you file a report with the WA Department of Agriculture, please give a copy of the incident report to SVENA, so we can have a better understanding of how a spray may have affected our area. Thanks!

See below for links and contacts to report a pesticide drift or accidental exposure in Washington State:

Neil Lanning


Washington State Department of Agriculture

Pesticide Compliance

PO Box 42589

Olympia, WA 98504

360-902-2038 Desk

360-688-0103 Cell

360-902-2093 FAX

Jennifer Sievert


WA State Department of Health

Division of Public & Environmental Health Sciences

Pesticide Illness Reporting


For more information in Washington State:

To file a complaint for pesticide misuse, look for office of Department of Agriculture nearest to you and contact:  http://agr.wa.gov/pestfert/pe sticides/complianceactivities. aspx

see:  Investigations of pesticide misuse

You may file a complaint concerning the misuse of a pesticide or licensing violation at any of the Pesticide Compliance offices nearest you (their contact information is included in the link above).

Be prepared to provide as much information as possible concerning the incident. It is also advised that you prepare a written statement concerning the incident as soon as possible. If your call is an emergency, please call the Olympia office.

Toll free statewide, WA Department of Agriculture: 1-877-301-4555

WA Department of Agriculture in Olympia: (360)902-2040

Investigation and Enforcement Form:

http://agr.wa.gov/PestFert/Pes ticides/docs/InvestigEnforcmnt Broch.pdf

Check out the following websites for additional information:

http://www.beyondpesticides.or g/pesticide-emergencies/what-to-do

http://www.pesticide.org/i_ve_ been_sprayed_by_pesticides_what_should_i_do