Transportation, Storage, Disposal, and Spill Cleanup

When you transport, store, or dispose of pesticides and their containers, you must take safety precautions. You can prevent many pesticide accidents, and reduce the severity of others, if you are prepared before you start these tasks. Before you begin any pesticide handling task, know what do to in case of spills and have the proper spill cleanup equipment on hand.

Transportation of Pesticides

You are responsible for the safe transport of pesticides in your possession. Carelessness in transporting pesticides can result in broken containers, spills, environmental contamination, and harm to yourself and others. Accidents can occur even when you are transporting materials a short distance. Do all you can to prevent a mishap, but be prepared in case of emergency. Before transporting pesticides, you should know what to do if a spill occurs. If any pesticide is spilled in or from the vehicle, take action right away to make sure the spill is cleaned up correctly.

Vehicle Safety

Never carry pesticides in the passenger section of your car, van, or truck. Hazardous vapors may be released and make the driver and other passengers ill. Pesticides may cause illness or injury if they spill on you or your passengers. It is nearly impossible to completely remove spills from the fabric of seats and floor mats. They can cause future contamination if they are not cleaned up correctly.

Never allow children, other passengers, and pets to ride with pesticides.

Never transport pesticides with food, clothing, or other things meant to be eaten by or in contact with people or animals. The risk of contamination is too high. Even small amounts of pesticide could contaminate these highly sensitive items.

Never leave your vehicle unattended when transporting pesticides in an unlocked trunk compartment or open-bed truck. You are responsible and liable if curious children or careless adults are accidentally poisoned by the pesticides. Whenever possible, transport pesticides in a locked compartment.

Transporting Pesticide Containers

Transport pesticides only in containers with intact, undamaged, and readable labels. Inspect containers before loading to be sure that all caps, plugs, and other openings are tightly closed and that there are no pesticides on the outside of the containers. Handle containers carefully to avoid rips or punctures. Anchor all containers securely to keep them from rolling or sliding. Protect paper and cardboard containers from moisture, because they become soggy and split easily when wet.

Pesticide Storage

Secure the site

Keeping out unauthorized people is an important function of the storage site.

Maintain the Storage Site

Prevent contamination -- Store only pesticides, pesticide containers, pesticide equipment, and a spill cleanup kit at the storage site. Do not keep food, drinks, tobacco, feed, medical or veterinary supplies or medication, seeds, clothing, or personal protective equipment (other than personal protective equipment necessary for emergency response) at the site. These could be contaminated by vapors, dusts, or spills and cause accidental exposure to people or animals.

Keep labels legible -- Store pesticide containers with the label in plain sight. Costly errors can result if the wrong pesticide is chosen by mistake. Labels should always be legible. They may be damaged or destroyed by exposure to moisture, dripping pesticide, diluents, or dirt. You can use transparent tape or a coating of lacquer or polyurethane to protect the label. If the label is destroyed or damaged, request a replacement from the pesticide dealer or the pesticide formulator immediately.

Keep containers closed -- Keep pesticide containers securely closed whenever they are being stored.

Use original containers -- Store pesticides in their original containers. Never put pesticides in containers that might cause children and other people to mistake them for food or drink. You are legally responsible if someone or something is injured by pesticides you have placed in unlabeled or unsuitable containers.

Watch for damage -- Inspect containers regularly for tears, splits, breaks, leaks, rust, or corrosion. When a container is damaged, put on appropriate personal protective equipment and take immediate action. If the damaged container is an aerosol can, use special care to avoid accidentally releasing the pesticide into the air.

When a container is damaged:

Prevent Pesticide Fires

Some pesticides are highly flammable; others do not catch fire easily. The labeling of pesticides that require extra precautions often will contain a warning statement in either the "Physical/Chemical Hazards" section or the "Storage and Disposal" section. Pesticides that contain oils or petroleum-based solvents are the ones most likely to contain these warning statements. Some dry products also present fire and explosion hazards.


Pesticide users are responsible for correctly dealing with empty pesticide containers, excess usable pesticides, and waste materials that contain pesticides or their residues. For information on disposal options available in your local area, contact your State or tribal pesticide authority.

Spill Management

A spill is any accidental release of a pesticide. As careful as people try to be, pesticide spills can and do occur. The spill may be minor, involving only a dribble from a container, or it may be major, involving large amounts of pesticide or pesticide-containing materials such as wash water, soil, and absorbents.

You must know how to respond correctly when a spill occurs. Stopping large leaks or spills is often not simple. If you cannot manage a spill by yourself, get help. Even a spill that appears to be minor can endanger you, other people, and the environment if not handled correctly. Never leave a spill unattended. When in doubt, get assistance. You can get help from Chemtrec (Chemical Transportation Emergency Center) by calling 1-800-424-9300. This number is for emergencies only.

The faster you can contain, absorb, and dispose of a spill, the less chance there is that it will cause harm. Clean up most spills immediately. Even minor dribbles or spills should be cleaned up before the end of the work day to keep unprotected persons or animals from being exposed.

A good way to remember the steps for a spill emergency is the "three C's: Control, Contain, Clean up.

Control the Spill Situation

Protect yourself -- Put on appropriate personal protective equipment before contacting the spill or breathing its fumes.

Stop the source -- If a small container is leaking, place it into a larger chemical-resistant container, such as a plastic drum or bag. If a spray tank is overflowing, stop the inflow and try to cap off the tank. If a tank, hopper, or container has burst or has tipped over and is too heavy to be righted, you will not be able to stop the source.

Protect others -- Isolate the spill site by keeping children, other unprotected people, and animals well back. Rope off the site if necessary. If you suspect the spill contains a highly volatile or explosive pesticide, you may need to keep people back even farther. Warn people to keep out of reach of any drift or fumes. Do not use road flares or allow anyone to smoke if you suspect the leaking material is flammable.

Stay at the site -- Do not leave the spill site until another knowledgeable and correctly protected person arrives. Someone should be at the spill site at all times until the spill is cleaned up.

Contain the Spill

Confine the spill -- As soon as the source of the leak is under control, move quickly to keep the spill in as small an area as possible. Do everything you can to keep it from spreading or getting worse. For small spills, use containment snakes to surround the spill and keep it confined. For larger spills, use a shovel, a rake, or other tool or equipment to make a dike of soil, sod, or absorbent material.

Protect water sources -- Keep the spill out of any body of water or any pathway that will lead to water, such as a ditch, floor drain, well, or sinkhole. If the spilled pesticide is flowing towards such an area, block it or redirect it.

Absorb liquids -- Liquid pesticide spills can be further contained by covering the entire spill site with absorbent materials, such as spill pillows, fine sand, vermiculite, sawdust, clay, kitty litter, shredded newspaper, or absorbent pads.

Cover dry materials -- Prevent dry, dusty pesticide spills, such as dusts, powders, or granules, from becoming airborne by covering them with a sweeping compound or a plastic covering or by very lightly misting the material with water. Do not mist too much, because water may release the pesticidal action or may cause the pesticide to form clumps and be unusable.

Clean Up

After you have contained the spill, you must pick up the spilled material and decontaminate the spill site and any contaminated items or equipment.

Clean up the spill -- For spilled liquid pesticides, sweep up the absorbent material containing the pesticide and place it into a heavy-duty plastic drum or bag. Keep adding the absorbent material until the spilled liquid is soaked up and removed.

Spills of dry pesticides should be swept up for reuse if possible. Avoid contaminating the spilled materials with soil or other debris, so it can be used in the usual application equipment and will not clog the nozzles or hopper openings. However, if the dry spill has become wet or full of debris, it must be swept up and placed in a heavy-duty plastic drum or bag for disposal.

Decontaminate the spill site -- Once you have collected as much of the spilled material as possible, decontaminate the spill site as well as you can. Do not hose down the site with water, unless the spill is on a containment tray or pad.

If the surface on which the pesticide has spilled is nonporous, such as sealed concrete, glazed ceramic tile, or no-wax sheet flooring, use water (or the chemical listed on the label to dilute the pesticide) and a strong detergent to remove the residues of the spill from the surface. Do not allow any of the wash solution to run off the site being cleaned. Place fresh absorbent material over the wash solution until it is all soaked up. Then sweep up the absorbent material and place it in a plastic drum or bag for disposal as an excess pesticide.

If the surface upon which the pesticide has spilled is porous, such as soil, unsealed wood, or carpet, you may have to remove the contaminated surface and dispose of it as an excess pesticide. Depending on the size of the spill and the toxicity of the pesticide, however, sometimes the site can be successfully neutralized.

Neutralize the spill site -- The labeling of a few pesticides will instruct you to neutralize a spill of that pesticide. Sometimes an authority, such as the pesticide manufacturer or Chemtrec, will also instruct you to neutralize the spill site. Follow the instructions carefully.

Neutralizing a spill often consists of mixing full-strength bleach with hydrated lime and working this mixture into the spill site with a coarse broom. Fresh absorbent material is then spread over the spill site to soak up the neutralizing liquid. This material is swept up and placed in a plastic drum or bag for disposal. You may be instructed to repeat the process several times to make sure that the site is thoroughly neutralized.

Soil is sometimes neutralized by removing and disposing of the top 2 to 3 inches and then neutralizing the remaining soil. You may be instructed to mix activated charcoal into the soil or to cover the spill site with 2 or more inches of lime and cover the lime with fresh topsoil.

Sometimes you may be instructed to cover minor spills with activated charcoal. The activated charcoal can adsorb or tie up enough pesticide to avoid adverse effects to plants and animals that contact the soil in the future. However, activated charcoal is not effective for large spills.

Decontaminate equipment -- Clean any vehicles, equipment, and personal protective equipment that were contaminated by the spill or during the containment and cleanup process. Use a strong mixture of chlorine bleach, dishwasher detergent, and water to clean the vehicles and equipment. Wash personal protective equipment thoroughly, following manufacturers' instructions and the guidelines in the personal protective equipment unit of this manual. Remember particularly that porous materials, such as brooms, leather shoes, and clothing, cannot be cleaned effectively if they are thoroughly saturated with pesticide. They should be discarded.

Decontaminate yourself -- As soon as you are finished with the spill and equipment cleanup, wash yourself thoroughly with detergent and water. Wash any part of your skin that might have been exposed, and always wash your face, neck, hands, and forearms.

Spill Follow up

For all large spills, and any spills that take place off your property, consider keeping records of your containment and cleanup activities and your conversations with authorities and the public about the spill. Photographs help to document any damage as well as the cleanup process.

Spill Kit

Keep a spill cleanup kit immediately available whenever you handle pesticides or their containers. If a spill occurs, you will not have the time or the opportunity to find all of the items.

The kit should consist of:

All of these items can be stored in the plastic container and kept clean and in working order until a spill occurs.

Philip G. Koehler, University of Florida
Robert A. Belmont, Florida Pest Control Association

This file is part of the UF/IFAS Basic Pesticide Training manual (SM-59) which is intended to provide intermediate training to pest control operators. The manual was adapted from a larger manual, Applying Pesticides Properly, which was developed by Ohio State University in cooperation with the Cooperative Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Pesticide Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Published: March, 1998