April 24, 2009
By Jacqueline Bodnar
As spring and summer approach, many of us will see and hear small reminders of the season. Each year, across the country, people are faced with unwanted pests in their homes and gardens. But what we use to combat those little pests can make a world of difference for our families. It may be easy to pick up the phone and place a call for someone to come out and put a quick chemical solution down, but that may not always be the best route to take. Additionally, many people in the military use DEET, and while it maybe find to do so on the job, it’s not something that should be brought home and used around the kids.
What are pesticides?
If you think you don’t have pesticides in your home, think again. Most of us do have some, although we may not even be aware of it. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pesticides are chemicals designed to kill unwanted pests in and around the home. They are also referred to as fungicides, herbicides, and rodenticides. While some are bug sprays, this category also includes insect repellants, rat poison, flea shampoos and weed killers. Because they are so toxic, they are believed to be dangerous to humans, especially to infants, small children and women who are pregnant.
“For numerous reasons, infants and children are especially sensitive to health risks posed by pesticides,” says Dr. Maria Kelly, a pediatric professor at the University of Florida. “Unlike adults, children’s internal organs are still developing and are susceptible to effects from toxins.”
The NIH agrees, saying that most pesticides can be harmful to both people and pets. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the development process that children’s systems are still undergoing is coupled with an immune system that may provide less natural protection than that of an adult. They also point out that children are often at greater risks from pesticides because they play on the floor or the lawn, where such chemicals are usually applied. They also put things in their mouths, which increases their risk factor. Exposure generally happens through one of three methods: skin contact, inhalation, and ingestion. Pesticide use is a big problem, with the EPA reporting that more than a billion pounds of pesticides are used each year across this country.
“Depending on the particular pesticide, certain forms have been linked to asthma, learning disabilities, and even childhood cancers,” adds Dr. Kelly. “Since the effects of many of these chemicals are unknown, it is advisable to minimize exposure to pesticides as much as possible, especially for pregnant women, infants and small children.”
Addressing the Problem
“Always keep pesticides away from children, preferably in a locked cabinet in a garage or basement,” says Dr. David Olson, a Traverse City, Mich. pediatrician. “Always keep them in original containers. We have seen far too many of these poisons stored in common containers, such as pop bottles. Kids will sample anything in a container like that, and some of these products are so toxic that a small sip can cause major problems.”
In fact, the EPA reports that there are around two million poisoning incidents per year in America, with over 50 percent of them involving children under the age of six. 90 percent of those calls involve poisonings that took place in the family home.
If you have a pest problem to contend with, this spring, whether it’s in the home or garden, consider the following tips to help keep your family safe:
Rather than routinely use pesticides, opt to use them only if there is a real problem that can’t be dealt with through any other means. The less you expose your family to these chemicals, the better.
If you are applying the chemicals yourself, be sure to read the labels carefully. Follow the instructions when it comes to application, exposure and storage of any left-over amount.
For those who opt to call in a pesticide company to do the work, you will need to ask lots of questions. Find out what they are using, what the risks are for your children, and whether there are safer alternatives that they could use. Many pest control companies are beginning to offer natural solutions to their customers.
There are natural methods of getting rid of pests that are safer and usually cheaper. The NIH also recommends trying a non-chemical method of pest control first, before taking a chemical route. Natural methods for eliminating pests include screening and sealing openings that may be allowing insects to enter the home, keeping things clean inside and out, disposing of garbage properly, and keep landscaping weeded and tended.
Do your homework concerning the best way to rid your home of unwanted pests. Searches may yield homemade remedies you can use in place of chemical solutions.
. Those in the military are at times exposed to a variety of chemical pesticides, including such things as DEET. It is important that they take the necessary precautions that the military guidelines have proposed in order to reduce risks to themselves, as well as their family. Always washing hands after using, and taking measures to keep it away from children are necessary to help provide protection. Certain pesticides are believed to have an impact on reproduction, as well as being passed through breast milk, which could become an issue for some.
“Although generally less effective, many of these natural forms use fewer synthetic chemicals or other harmful deterrents,” adds Dr. Kelly. “Some natural formulations include hot pepper spray, wood ash, natural oils, and even baking soda.”
Looking for a natural solution?
Mosquito repellent – cinnamon oil, citronella oil, lemongrass oil, or peppermint oil
Ant removal – vinegar, baby powder, or peppermint oil
Cockroaches – catnip, bay leaves
Fleas – citrus, cedar
Moths – cedar chips in cheesecloth
In the garden, beneficial insects include ladybugs, lacewings, hover-flies, brachonids, and praying mantis. For more natural remedies that can be used in the home and garden, try a search at google.com for “natural pest control.”