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Using Insecticides Safely

Organophosphates and carbamates (OPCs) are the active ingredients in some insecticides. They can be used to to control a wide range of horticultural pests, but are toxic to people and the environment.

The approval for plant protection insecticides containing organophosphates or carbamates was recently modified under the hazardous substances and new organisms legislation (HSNO). As a result of the reassessment, new rules take effect on 1 July 2015.


Find out the new rules for the insecticides you use

Start by reading the product label for the insecticides you use. The label has important safety information and will tell you what active ingredients the product contains. If the active ingredient is listed below, click on it to learn about how to use your product safely.


Health risks

Because of the toxicity of organophosphates and carbamates (OPCs), you should only use insecticides with OPCs if there are no safer alternatives available and as part of an integrated pest management system.

You can be poisoned if you are exposed to OPCs through inhalation, ingestion or absorption through the skin. OPCs affect the nervous system and symptoms can vary in severity from nausea or dizziness to unconsciousness or even heart failure. There is also growing evidence to suggest that frequent long-term exposure to low levels of organophosphates may result in impaired memory, irritability, speech difficulties and sleep disorders.


Environmental risks

OPCs can also harm the environment and are particularly toxic in the aquatic environment and to birds and bees.

To find all of the rules that apply to a substance, check the HSNO approval number (HSRXXXXX) for your product on the Environmental Protection Authority's hazardous substances controls database.


Last updated 30 August 2014


On Monday 4 April 2016, the New Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) came into effect.

HSWA repeals the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, with immediate effect.

All references to the 1992 Act on this website and within our guidance will be progressively removed.