Preventing pesticide misuse

Learn how to identify if a pesticide has been used incorrectly and report it to the EPA.

Pesticide misuse includes

  • failing to follow label or permit instructions
  • injuring people or damaging property, or using pesticides in a way that is likely to do so
  • harming a non-target plant or animal
  • using an unregistered pesticide, or possessing one and intending to use it
  • storing pesticides in containers that do not have the approved label attached
  • disposing of a pesticide or its container illegally, for example, pouring pesticide waste down a drain
  • spraying pesticides from an aircraft without a relevant EPA licence
  • spraying pesticide from an aircraft within 150 metres of a home, school or other public place without the written consent of the occupier – this does not apply to roads, travelling stock reserves and RailCorp land
  • placing pesticides or empty pesticide containers in waterways

If you think you have seen pesticides being misused, take photos or video recordings if possible and keep detailed records of what occurred.

Report the incident to the EPA’s Environment Line by phoning 131 555 as soon as possible. All reports are confidential.

When reporting the incident, provide information such as

  • date, time and exact location of the affected area
  • duration of the event
  • weather conditions (wind, temperature, humidity) at the time of the event 
  • what you have experienced
  • description of the operator and any contact details about the person you suspect of pesticide misuse
  • symptoms of harm to people, plants or animals
  • name or type of pesticide, if known
  • how the pesticide was applied, for example by air, knapsack, tractor or truck
  • to what crop or plants it was applied, or in what situation, for example, termite treatment
  • description of spray equipment such as colour, size, type and registration numbers
  • ways in which the spray equipment was being used, including the exact location and the direction and speed of movement
  • names and contact details of any other witnesses
  • any photographs or video recordings of the incident 
  • details of any notification provided before pesticide application such as signs, letters or telephone calls advising of the pesticide use

If practical and safe

  • try not to wash sprayed vehicles, windscreens or possessions
  • consider not harvesting or grazing a crop or pasture that you believe has been affected by pesticides

These may be important as evidence of misuse. EPA-authorised officers will assess the situation (by telephone or visit) and take samples if appropriate.

Please note for health reasons if people have been sprayed, they should shower immediately. Do not refrain from washing yourself if others under any circumstances.

The EPA may also ask you to preserve certain evidence such as dead organisms.

If you feel that you are at risk due to exposure to pesticide, move away from the application site, for example

  • leave the premises
  • move into a building or vehicle and close the windows and doors

If you are concerned that your health may be affected, seek immediate medical assistance from your general practitioner or local hospital.

In cases of acute poisoning, contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

Where possible, practical and safe, contact the person applying the pesticide or the neighbour or company that has contracted their services and

  • tell them your concerns
  • ask for the first aid instructions and safety directions on the label of the pesticide used

Exposure to aerial pesticide sprays

If you are in a rural area and believe you have been exposed to aerial pesticide spray contact the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (02 6882 1486) for a copy of Exposure to Aerial Pesticide Sprays information for communities in rural NSW.

EPA authorised officers are authorised to investigate pesticide misuse and this may lead to prosecution if appropriate evidence is obtained. Offences under the Pesticides Act are criminal offences, so the EPA must be able to prove an offence beyond reasonable doubt.

Depending on the details of the reported incident, EPA regulatory action (such as fines) may not be appropriate. Instead, the EPA may

  • provide advice that the action was within the law
  • direct pesticide users to advice on best practice use of pesticides
  • issue a warning to the pesticide user
  • refer the incident to another authority
  • facilitate communication among the people involved
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