State Fairgrounds - P.O. Box 19281 - Springfield, IL 62794-9281 - 217/782-2172 - TDD 217/524-6858 - Fax 217/785-4505

Pesticides: Uses & Misuses

Pesticides are an important management tool in agricultural production. They increase yields and reduce the presence of foreign materials in some commodities. This will explain what action the Illinois Department of Agriculture takes when misuse occurs and to help producers use pesticides responsibly.

In 1966, Illinois became one of the first states to regulate pesticides. The state still has one of the most thorough licensing and enforcement programs, surpassing even federal guidelines.

Proper use of pesticides is important since pesticide-drift can harm susceptible vegetation, wildlife and water supplies. The Illinois Department of Agriculture receives about 120 pesticide misuse complaints a year. About 60 percent of those complaints involve drift.

Through education about the proper use of these chemicals, the department works to reduce pesticide misuse and enhance Illinois' agricultural industry.

How to apply pesticides properly.
Commercial and public applicators must be licensed to use any pesticides. Farmers and homeowners must be licensed to apply restricted pesticides. Contact the department at 217-785-2427 or 1-800-641-3934 (voice and TDD) for more information on licensing requirements.

Proper pesticide use starts before application. Take time to observe the surrounding area. Look for children, nearby farm workers and sensitive crops. Then, read the label. Some label directions specify the maximum wind speed for application. Others simply indicate the product should not be used when weather conditions favor drift. Strong winds blowing pesticides onto surrounding properties result in the largest number of complaints, so care should be taken to apply when winds are light and directed away from sensitive vegetation. Other precautions include leaving a buffer strip, increasing droplet size, lowering spray pressure and using a drift control additive. Finally, keep accurate, detailed records, including wind speed and direction during application, to avoid frivolous complaints.

How to recognize and respond to signs of pesticide misuse.

Pesticide misuse is often easy to spot. Plants may become spotted, curled or even die when exposed to a pesticide, often because wind has carried it from its intended area.

If you believe your property has been damaged by pesticide misuse, call the IDOA's Bureau of Environmental Programs at 1-800-641-3934 (voice and TDD) or 217-785-2427 for a complaint form. Complaints must be received by the IDOA within 30 days of the incident or within 30 days of when the damage was first noticed. Complaints filed after that will be kept on record, but no administrative action can be taken.

The Complaint Process: Rights and Responsibilities.

Once a Complaint is filed with the department, a field investigator is assigned the case. In most cases, the inspector will interview the complainant and inspect the site. Various types of samples, such as plants, water or soil, may be collected for analysis. The investigator may also interview applicators in the area, examine pesticide records and collect weather data in an attempt to determine the nature and cause of the damage. The field investigator then submits a report to the department for review.

Both parties will receive written notification if the department finds a violation and takes enforcement action. Penalties range from advisory or warning letters to monetary penalties of $750 to $10,000, depending on the type and severity of the violation. Penalties are determined through a point system defined in the Illinois Pesticide Act. Even if a violation of the Illinois Pesticide Act cannot be substantiated, both the complainant and the alleged violator will be notified in writing of the complaint's status.

The department's role in pesticide misuse incidents is limited to determining whether a violation has occurred. The IDOA cannot help complainants recover damages.

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PESTICIDE COMPLAINTS by year agricultural related and total complaints, 1989 44 82 1990 64110 1991 61124 1992 54135 1993 75110 1994102128 1995 86138 1996 89115 1997 99118 1998 75 89 1999128156 2000121135 2001 64100 2002107 2003 89 2004 50 80 2005 77 2006 60 94 2007 61117 2008 73115 2009 66 92 2010 67103 2011 6497
Endangered Species Protection
Information on the Endangered Species Protection Program administered through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can be obtained at

Healthy Lawncare Practices
EPA has created a series of new videos to encourage homeowners and communities to adopt healthy lawncare practices as a means of reducing pesticide risk to human health and the environment. Healthy, environmentally friendly lawn and landscape practices can reduce erosion, stream sedimentation, flooding, and runoff of pollutants into local waterways as well as risk of pesticide exposure to children, adults, pets, and wildlife. Topics covered include soil testing, watering, mowing, weed and pest control, fertilizer use, aerating soil, and controlling runoff. To view EPA's new healthy lawn care practices video,

For more information, call the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Environmental Programs at 1-800-641-3934 (voice and TDD) or 217-785-2427.

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