An implied risk exists when you use products intentionally designed to be toxic. Insecticides are, by design, deadly to certain living things. Statements of safety often lead us to a false sense of security when dealing with these potentially hazardous chemicals. No one should ever let their guard down when applying any type of insecticide. Use precautionary measures whenever possible such as masks, gloves and protective clothing. Avoid using insecticides altogether if you can.
One of the "safety valves" we put on insecticides is that they are safe if used as directed. But even if you use the products in a safe manner, your neighbor might not. Regardless of labeling, hazardous wastes end up in watershed, over-applied to surface plants or used with dangerous application methods.
The key to toxicity levels in insecticides is dosage. Low-dose exposure to the chemicals used in commercial insecticides will pose no threat to people or animals. Exposure to doses over the recommended levels, especially prolonged exposure to high doses, are very likely to produce long-term health issues. These health problems include impaired liver function, cancer and reproductive issues.
Each individual has a varying degree of sensitivity toward chemicals. Tests on chemicals assume an average level of sensitivity. You may have personal experiences that differ from testing done by chemical companies and the results could vary. However, problems due to sensitivity are usually relatively minor. Problems like skin rashes, mild allergic reactions and eye irritation are common with chemical sensitivity.
The frequency of insecticide use has an even greater impact on its toxicity to people and animals than the strength of the product. The most dangerous types of insecticides are those used repeatedly throughout the year. Lawn chemicals pose a greater threat than garden chemicals because they are used more often, in areas of high traffic and, more importantly, where children are more apt to play. Sprays for topical applications pose a lesser risk if used according to directions than broad-application products. Products meant for application directly to the skin meet rigid control standards for safety.
Insecticides are a greater risk to the very young, and the very old. Age plays a big part in how well the body adapts to adversity and chemical interference. Young bodies with developing organs and cells absorb chemicals into them and may have altered development as a result. Older individuals have weakened body systems, organs and cells that cannot adapt to chemical interference.