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UC Cooperative Extension Ventura County
669 County Square Dr. Suite 100
Ventura CA 93003
Phone: 805.645.1451
Fax: 805.645.1474

Office Hours
Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
Please phone ahead as staff schedules vary due to COVID-19.
We are also available via phone and email. 

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Pesticide Plunders

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has published a list of “Top 10 Pesticide Blunders at Home.” The list follows. Whenever you use pesticides of any kind, use good sense, and follow label directions. 

None of the following cases resulted in death, although most victims required medical treatment. (State privacy law protects their identities.) Most cases occurred in 2001 and 2002 and were compiled by DPR’s Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program. In no particular order, the “top 10” are:


1.      A Contra Costa homeowner discovered sewer rats were entering his home through a toilet. He bought an incendiary device intended for gophers and other burrowing pests, and dropped it down a plumbing vent on his roof. The device melted a plastic elbow in the pipe and the roof caught fire, causing $80,000 in damage before firefighters could extinguish the blaze.


2.      A Riverside County woman set off four foggers in her 1,000-square-foot apartment (about three cans more than the recommended application) and left the residence (as the label instructed), only to reenter several times to pick up things she had forgotten. She began to experience dizziness, nausea, and cramps, so she called 911. Upon arrival, a paramedic attempted to retrieve the fogger without wearing a respiratory protection device, and he too became ill.


3.      In Stanislaus County, a 38-year-old woman found a home remedy for head lice on the Web. She then applied eight ounces of dog flea-and-tick shampoo and olive oil to her scalp, and wrapped her head in cellophane for five hours. Her scalp began to itch and burn. She felt shaky and also experienced nausea and drooling.


4.      In San Joaquin County, a 23-year-old man spotted a fly on his beer can, and sprayed an insecticide on the can. Later, as he drank from the can, his lips began to tingle.



5.      An 18-year-old Lassen County resident sprayed half a can of outdoor-use insecticide in his bedroom, then went to sleep. He awoke with nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and other symptoms. He denied his sister’s allegation that he was sniffing the insecticide.


6.      A Placer County man was spraying his yard with the insecticide diazinon when he stopped for a chew of tobacco, placing the wad into his mouth with an unwashed hand. He began vomiting, salivating, and experienced shortness of breath.


7.      A Sonoma County apartment resident sprayed three aerosol cans of lice treatment on his bed, then went to sleep. He awoke the next morning with a headache, nausea, and vomiting. He did not read or follow the product label directions and told investigators he assumed the more he used, the more effective it would be.


8.      In Los Angeles County, a woman diluted bleach in a cup to clean it, then forgot about it and went to bed. The next morning, she warmed the cup of liquid and took a sip before remembering the cup contained bleach. In a similar incident, a Sonoma homeowner left a cup of bleach solution that she had used for cleaning on her bathroom counter. She got up at midnight and drank from the cup. Her throat began to burn and she vomited.


9.      A Tuolumne County homeowner tried to kill a spider in a cupboard by spraying it with insecticide. The woman then stuck her head in the cupboard to determine if the spider was dead. She began coughing and vomiting from the fumes. In a similar case, a San Joaquin County man stuck his head inside a cupboard to determine if the insecticide he had sprayed on ants was working. He developed a mild headache, dizziness, and respiratory symptoms.


10. A San Francisco physician over-treated his closet with mothballs. When he wore clothes from the closet, he began to feel dizzy, nauseated, and suffered loss of muscular coordination. The first time, he recovered in fresh air. The second time, he went to an emergency room and was hospitalized overnight to rule out a stroke before the problem was traced to excessive mothball fumes.