Restrictions on the use, possession and storage of pesticides by gardeners

UK and European law bans the use of certain pesticides and restricts the use of certain other pesticides. There are also requirements as to the storage and disposal of pesticides.

Which pesticides are banned?

Under European Law (specifically Council Directive 79/117/EEC prohibiting the placing on the market and use of plant protection products containing certain active substances and regulation (EC) No. 850/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on persistent organic pollutants and amending Directive 79/117/EEC) certain pesticides are banned or their use is restricted.

The pesticides that are banned or for which their use is restricted are as follows:

Mercury compounds

  • Mercuric oxide (mercury oxide) as a paint to treat canker on apple, pear and similar fruit trees;

  • Mercurous chloride (calomel) as a treatment for clubroot on cabbages and other types of brassica, white rot on onions and dollar spot and fusarium as a treatment of ornamental turf and turf for sports grounds;

  • other inorganic mercury compounds;

  • Alkyl mercury compounds in the dipping of flower bulbs and seed potatoes and for the treatment of certain cereal seeds;

  • Alkoxyalkyl and aryl mercury compounds as a paint to treat canker on apple, pear and similar fruit trees at certain times of the year or for the dipping of flower bulbs and seed potatoes and for the treatment of certain cereal seeds;

Persistent organo-chlorine compounds

  • Aldrin;

  • Chlordane;

  • Dieldrin;

  • DDT;

  • Endrin;

  • HCH containing less than 99% of the gamma isomer;

  • Heptachlor;

  • Hexachlorobenzene;

  • Mirex;

  • Toxaphene (Camphechlor);

  • Polychlorinated Biphenyl

Other compounds

  • Ethylene oxide;

  • Nitrofen;

  • Dibromoethane;

  • Dichloroethane;

  • Dinoseb;

  • Binapacryl;

  • Captafol;

  • Dicofol;

  • Maleic hydrazide;

  • Quintozene.

In addition the following substances are banned under UK law:

  • Antu;

  • Azobenzene;

  • Cadmium compounds;

  • Calcium arsenate;

  • Chlordecone;

  • Cyhexatin;

  • Methyl mercury;

  • Phenylmercury salicylate;

  • Potassium arsenite;

  • Selenium compounds;

  • Sodium arsenite;

  • 1,1,2,2 – tetachloroethane.

How can I find out whether it is legal to use a particular product?

The Chemicals Regulations Directorate, which is part of the Health and Safety Executive, maintains a database of pesticides that can be legally used and a database of products that have been withdrawn, revoked, suspended or voided, copies of which can be found on their website.

Products are classified as being for “amateur”, “professional” and “industrial” use. Where a product is classed as being for “amateur” use it means that the product can be used by the general public. Products classed as being for “professional” or “industrial” use can only be used by people who have been trained in the use of the product.

Can I still use a product that has been withdrawn?

If a product has been withdrawn for legal use it may be illegal to use or store it. If you do use or store it you could face prosecution and could be fined. However, when a pesticide is withdrawn the product can still be used up until a specific expiry date.

Storage of pesticides

Pesticides should always be stored in their original containers and should be stored carefully so that they don’t present a danger to wildlife, people or animals. Diluted pesticides should not be stored. If you do not store a pesticide in the correct manner you could face prosecution.

Disposal of pesticides

Pesticides should not be poured into a drain either directly or indirectly via a sink or toilet, for example. If you wish to dispose of a pesticide you should follow the advice on the product’s label on disposal or contact your local Council for advice. If you do not dispose of a pesticide in the correct manner you could face prosecution.