Storing pesticides properly protects human and animal health, safeguards wells and surface waters, and prevents unauthorized access to hazardous chemicals. Proper pesticide storage and inventory practices will prolong the shelflife of pesticides and make it easier to track your pesticide usage so that you can plan purchases for future years.
Your job is not finished until the pesticides, containers, and your equipment have been put away properly. While you are cleaning up and putting away the pesticides, containers, and equipment you should wear all the personal protective equipment you used on the job. Consider wearing gloves and other protective equipment, even if they weren’t recommended on the label. Spills and accidental contamination often occur during storage procedures.
Reducing the amount of pesticide, you store lowers the risk of chemical fires, explosions, or spills that contaminate well water, surface water or the soil. Make every effort to limit storage by buying only the amount of pesticide that you need for a specific job or for the current growing season.
In addition to safety concerns, storage of large amounts of pesticides on site is a tempting target for thieves.
The pesticide label is the best guide to storage requirements for every pesticide product. The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) provides additional information on normal appearance and odor as well as flash point, fire control recommendations, boiling point, and solubility.
Pesticide Storage and the Law
According to Chapter 5E-2, Florida Administrative Code, “restricted use pesticides shall be stored and maintained in a secure manner, such that they are not easily accessible to unauthorized persons.” Regular agricultural pesticide use inspections, conducted by inspectors from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), use a form containing a three-item checklist regarding pesticide storage.
Keeping out unauthorized people, pets, and stray animals is an important function of the pesticide storage site. Whether the designated area is as small as a cabinet or as large as a building, it is important keep it securely locked.
Storage Building and Location
Store large quantities of pesticides in a building designed specifically for that purpose. Store moderate amounts in their own room or storage cabinet within a building, but not in a basement or other area likely to flood. Make sure the room has a door that opens to the outside. Storage facility construction, or the renovation of an existing building for storing pesticides, requires planning. When choosing a storage site, check on local building, zoning, and fire codes and environmental regulations before construction. Have the local Fire Marshall or Fire Prevention Inspector review plans for construction.
More information on storage building designs, construction details and requirements, and engineering specifications for ventilation, heating, secondary containment, and site preparation can be found in the references at the end of this article.
If you are using a portable building for pesticide storage, use secure tie-downs to prevent movement or tipping from strong winds or flooding.
To protect the environment, the floor of the storage area should be made of sealed concrete, epoxy-coated metal, glazed ceramic tile or another non-porous material that is free of cracks. This will prevent any spilled pesticides from seeping into the ground and will make cleanup of spills easier. Construct the floor with a continuous 2- to 4-inch lip to keep spills inside the building or the room. Floor drains must be sealed unless they are plumbed to a separate, external, holding tank. Any outflow must be captured and disposed of as hazardous waste. Use sealed floors — metal, sealed concrete, epoxy-coated metal, wood or concrete, no-wax sheet flooring or other easily cleaned, non-absorbent material. Dirt or unsealed wooden floors are unacceptable.
Pesticide storage buildings should be located away from river and stream floodplains, ditches, ponds, and any other likely source of flooding. To prevent potential contamination of surface water or groundwater, carefully consider characteristics of soil and land surface when selecting a storage site. Avoid locating the storage facility near a stream likely to flood or where runoff water can be a potential problem, such as at the base of a slope. In certain situations, consider diking the storage facility or constructing a containment structure around it.
The site should be downwind and downhill from sensitive areas, such as houses, animal feeding stations or shelters, and food or feed storage facilities. Choose a location that is at adequately separated from a wellhead and public water supplies. The US Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection recommend that pesticide storage and handling facilities are located a minimum of 100 feet from water sources.
Locate the pesticide storage facility where water damage is unlikely to occur.
The best practice is to maintain as great a distance as possible between any potential contaminant and water sources. Ideally, the storage building should be at least 50 feet away from other structures to reduce the risk of fire spreading from one building to another. Choose a site for the storage building that provides easy access for emergency vehicles.
Most pesticide labels call for storage in a “cool, dry” place For your safety, always provide adequate ventilation and light.
Consult the pesticide label to determine the acceptable limits at which the storage temperature should not exceed or fall. As a rule of thumb, the temperature inside the storage area should not get below 40°F or over 100°F.
Some pesticides will freeze when they get too cold and the container may crack and leak. Freezing temperatures may cause some formulations to separate. Some pesticides expand when they get very hot. High temperatures also cause plastic to melt or become brittle and may cause a buildup of pressure that may break glass containers or cause the chemicals to volatilize or spill out when the container is opened. Excessive heat may cause explosion or fire. Exhaust fans will reduce temperatures. Minimize fire hazards if you provide supplemental heating to the storage area.
Keep the storage area dry. Water or excess moisture can damage pesticide containers and their contents. High humidity may cause some dry formulations to cake, clump, breakdown, or dissolve, and release pesticide, making them unusable and dangerous and may cause slow-release products to release their active ingredients. Humidity also weakens paper and cardboard containers, and will eventually rust metal containers. It can also cause labels to peel off or become unreadable.
The storage building needs constant ventilation to prevent the buildup of toxic fumes and to reduce humidity. Install louvered air intake vents low on the wall with the entrance door, or in the lower part of the door, and an exhaust fan or louvered air vents high on the opposite wall. This allows vapors to flow away from anyone entering or inside the storage unit and provides a continuous flow of air when the door is open. An exhaust fan removes fumes, excess heat, and humidity better than passive airflow. Vent exhaust air from the storage room directly to the outside. Do not exhaust the air from a storage area into other rooms. In some parts of the state, heat may be needed to maintain 40 F in the storage facility.
Make sure the storage area is bright enough so that pesticide labels can be read easily. Do not store pesticides in direct sunlight because exposure to sunlight may cause pesticides to break down and become ineffective and unusable.