are a multifaceted health hazard that can be found in the home environment.
Varying types of pesticides, levels of exposure, and characteristics of
the individual exposed can lead to multiple health impacts such as acute
and persistent injury to the nervous system, injury to reproductive systems,
birth defects, and cancer.
The term “pesticide” is used to describe chemical substances
including insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, herbicides, and antimicrobials.
Through the now-widespread use of these various chemicals, children may
be exposed to pesticides in their food, water, and environments. Some
of these exposures (i.e. those from pesticide use in schools, on playing
fields, in parks, and by neighbors) are more difficult to reduce and control
than others. However, being informed, asking questions, researching options,
investigating legislation, and requesting notifications from schools and
landlords are a few overall steps that will increase the ability to understand
the risks pesticides pose to a child and take actions to reduce them.
Despite the many sources of pesticide exposure, pesticide use in the
home, lawn, and garden is responsible for most children’s exposures.
The best way to protect the home environment from posing health hazards
as the result of pesticides is to prevent their use in the first place.
If pesticides have already been applied in the home, it is important to
wash all surfaces and items that may have come into contact with the pesticide
and to provide adequate ventilation throughout the home. As pesticides
can be difficult to wash away, it is generally recommended to wash the
surfaces first with a Borax solution and then rinse them with a separate
baking soda solution.
Neither indoor nor outdoor use of pesticides offer a long-term solution
to pest problems; they kill pests but need to be re-applied periodically.
In order to permanently eliminate pests, it is necessary to identify the
factors that are allowing the pests to thrive and alter them.
Inside the home, this typically involves eliminating food and water sources
and preventing pests from entering the home.
- Eliminate food sources such as packaged
food in the cupboard, pet food, crumbs on counters and floors, and garbage
by preventing access to them. Keeping food and garbage in tightly sealed
containers and frequently cleaning counters, floors, carpets, and furniture
are a few ways to limit nourishment to pests.
- Eliminate water sources such as leaking
pipes, toilets, and faucets; standing water in sinks, tubs, and houseplant
bases; and excessive bathroom humidity.
- Eliminate home access points through methods
such as caulking or otherwise plugging up all cracks and crevices throughout
the home around plumbing, electrical, and gas lines, as well as in places
like cupboards and walls; checking items like paper bags, groceries,
and pet food bags before they are brought into the house; sealing cracks
in window sills and under doors and insuring they have well-maintained
screens; and installing screens on all floor drains.
In instances where an infestation has occurred or is not diminishing
with preventive measures, and it seems as though traditional chemical
pesticides are necessary, alternatives such as baits and boric acid are
safer, preferable forms of treatment, as they limit the level of human
exposure to pesticides. If more potent pesticides are applied, a targeted
application to cracks and crevices is preferred. Pesticide sprays and
fogs should not be used to control the problem.
Always be certain that the appropriate pesticide is being applied for
the location and the level of the problem being addressed. Instructions,
guidelines, and warnings on labels should be read, understood, and followed
at all times. Proper disposal and storage are also important steps in
preventing unwanted pesticide exposures.
Identifying and altering the factors that may allow pests to thrive is
also the preferred method of pest prevention outside the home. This typically
involves clearing away potential habitats that may be in immediate contact
with the home (i.e. woodpile and garbage cans), removing breeding sites
(i.e. standing water, pet feces, and trash), and selecting species of
vegetation appropriate to the local environment (i.e. pay close attention
to grass, shrub, tree, and garden selections).
Overall, this set of combined approaches to pest prevention and reduction
is called integrated pest management (IPM).
- IPM is effective, economical, and environmentally
- IPM uses a combination of common-sense practices,
information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the
environment, and available pest control methods.
- IPM presents the least possible hazard to
people, property, and the environment.
Asthma Regional Council - "IPM:
Policy Options for Residential Real Estate" authored
by Alliance staff Housing Policy Director, Jane Malone.
Asthma Regional Council - http://www.asthmaregionalcouncil.org/about/IPM.html
Beyond Pesticides - www.beyondpesticides.org
Community Environmental Health Resource Center (CEHRC) resources
Cox, C., Journal of Pesticide Reform, “Ten Reasons Not to Use Pesticides”
(Winter 2001) - www.pesticide.org/TenReasons.pdf
Environmental Health Coalition - www.environmentalhealth.org/PestControl.pdf
Environmental Health Watch, Pests and Asthma Resources (includes IPM
information) - www.ehw.org/Asthma/ASTH_home1.htm#Pests
Gumm, Brian, Home Energy, "Integrated Pest Management in
the Home," Vol. 21 Iss. 6 pp. 36-39 (Nov-Dec 2004)
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides - www.pesticide.org
Pesticide Action Network - www.pesticideinfo.org
Safer Pest Control Project - www.spcpweb.org
US Environmental Protection Agency Resources
out how to safely control pests like cockroaches and rodents that threaten
about illegal pesticide products that should never be purchased or used
inside the home.
answers to questions about pesticide safety and preventing pesticide poisoning.
tips on integrated pest management for families.