Herbicides are a necessary component in an effective right-of-way management program. When used as directed, herbicides are perfectly safe and are a cost-effective means of vegetation management. Herbicides must be carefully handled by trained applicators to avoid spills or injuries, so it is essential to learn the risks associated with herbicide management, proper handling techniques and storage procedures.

Risks of Herbicides to Humans and Animals

Toxicity depends on the nature of the herbicide, as all blends vary depending on the user’s right-of-way management goals. When used at their directed rates, herbicides are generally safe to humans and surrounding wildlife. 


Poisoning can occur in humans when proper care is not exercised. Field applicators tend to be at the greatest risk for exposure, especially during the mixing and loading processes. Community members and animals can be affected by coming into direct contact with the chemical through spills and spray drift, or through indirect contact when the chemical contaminates food or water supplies. This is why training on proper application is of the essence.


Federal guidelines regulate the use of herbicides and keep humans and animals safe, but applicators still need to use caution during application and mixing. If mixing can be avoided altogether, you eliminate one possible hazard.


Understanding Acute vs. Chronic Toxicity


Acute toxicity refers to the effects of an herbicide after a short exposure, such as an incident during mixing. Some herbicides can contain chemicals with high-acute toxicity levels, which can be harmful or even deadly if used improperly. 


Chronic toxicity refers to long-term effects that can arise with prolonged low-level exposure to a particular chemical or herbicide. These effects tend to be difficult to measure, as signs and symptoms tend to develop slowly over time.

Recognizing the Signs of Herbicide Poisoning in Humans

Field applicators should be trained and educated to recognize the signs of herbicide poisoning in humans.


Mild pesticide and herbicide poisoning symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Constricted (small) pupils
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Tearing of the eyes and blurred vision
  • Cramping and diarrhea
  • Irregularly slow heartbeat, typically under 50 beats per minute

Moderately severe symptoms can include:

  • Inability to walk
  • Tightness or discomfort in the chest
  • Muscle twitches
  • Involuntary bladder or bowel movement

Severe poisoning can feature all of the above listed symptoms, in addition to seizures and unconsciousness. Time is of the essence when treating herbicide poisoning. Individuals exhibiting any of the above symptoms should contact poison control immediately.

Risks of Herbicides to Water and Soil

Custom herbicides are specifically blended to target specific plants, as identified by the customer. The risks to water and soil are much like those posed to humans and animals, as they usually occur when proper procedures are not being followed.


Herbicides have the potential to contaminate the soil, ground and surface water. Spills and leaks, improperly disposed of containers, and rundown from rinsing stations into drainage systems tend to be the greatest culprits when it comes to water contamination.

How Herbicide Spills May Happen

When working with herbicides, it’s important to understand the potential of a spill and best practices to prevent them. Spills commonly occur in the following ways:

  • Damaged Containers - Low-quality herbicide storage containers can easily leak or become damaged when stored for too long or exposed to high temperatures.
  • Field Mixing - Accidents can happen when applicators mix herbicides, even when following all safety protocols. 
  • Overfilled Tanks - Adding herbicides to a tank requires the utmost attention and safety precautions. Not paying attention even, for a brief moment can result in an overfilled tank.
  • Poorly Rinsed Containers - Containers that may seem empty, but still have even the smallest amount of residue on them can lead to leaks. This is why all disposable containers must be triple-rinsed before discarding.
  • Improper Storage - Containers improperly stacked in storage are prone to getting knocked over by handling equipment. This can result in ruptured and leaking containers.

Advantages of Pre-Mixed, Pre-Packaged Herbicides 

Choosing a supplier with pre-mixed, pre-packaged herbicides is one of the best ways to mitigate the risks associated with spills and leaks. 

Premixing has a host of great benefits including:

  • Protects Workers - By eliminating the need for field mixing, you can protect applicators from exposure and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Reduce Spills - Premixing greatly reduces the risk of spills and errors in the field. Prepackaged herbicides come ready to go for less handling and less risk.
  • Save Resources - Partnering with a premix provider gives you the opportunity to have special formulations based on particular seasonal vegetation needs, reducing the need to overspray product.
  • Improves Accuracy - Premixed blends can be specially formulated to target specific vegetation. This targeted response means less guesswork in taking care of the problem.

Eco-Pak offers a variety of herbicide blends, created specifically for your needs. We feature both basal oil and diluted concentrate foliar blends to ensure your vegetation management goals are met every time.

Benefits of Returnable, Reusable Containers

Choosing a supplier who implements a returnable, reusable system for containers provides further benefits. These additional advantages include:

  • Creating Efficiency - Triple-rinsing all herbicide drums can be time consuming. Using returnable, reusable containers eliminates this need. Simply send back drums when they are empty and we’ll take care of the rest.
  • Reducing Leaks - Run-down from drains can contaminate surrounding soil and water if the proper care is not exercised. Eliminating the need for in-house rinsing reduces your liability.
  • Improving Sustainability - Reusing containers significantly reduces environmental impact, while also reducing the risk of spills.

At Eco-Pak, our goal is to make the entire process as efficient and safe as possible for all parties.

How Eco-Pak’s Closed Loop System Improves  Safety

At Eco-Pak, we’ve made it our life’s work to perfect the herbicide blending process. In addition to providing clients with custom herbicide blends, we’ve implemented additional safety features into our process to look after the wellbeing of workers in the field.


In addition to custom blends, we offer custom packaging and repackaging services to give you the right amount of product at the right time. Whether it’s large containers for widespread use or smaller packing for easy handling in the field, we’ve got you covered.


We use a closed-loop system, meaning we create custom blends in one of our facilities and ship it directly to you. This eliminates the need for field-mixing, reducing the chances workers or members of the public come into contact with chemicals - minimizing risks and liability for you. 

Contact Eco-Pak to discuss your premixed herbicide needs.