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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.

Completed forms can be mailed to:
Illinois Department of Agriculture
Bureau of Environmental Programs
P.O. Box 19281
Springfield, IL  62794-9281

Completed forms can be faxed to:

Completed forms can be emailed to:
(The complaint form must be downloaded and saved to you computer for the automated email function button on the form to work)

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.

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, visit: Healthy Lawncare Practices .

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.