We’ve all experienced at least one, but it doesn’t mean we have to live with – or even like – an insect infestation. Whether it’s an army of ants, spindly spiders, paper-loving silverfish, creepy cockroaches, pesky mosquitoes or tenacious termites – when insects invade our home – we feel violated.
So, what’s the first thing you do when you see a bug, or full blown colony of critters? Most people reach for the nearest can of can of insecticide spray or rush to the store for bait traps. But, before you blast these living organisms with toxic chemicals, you may want to consider this: pesticides are designed to kill living organisms. Do you really think you’re health isn’t being affected too?
Reading pest control labels
Many of the ingredients contained in bug sprays and other pest control methods are linked to a vast number of illnesses. You’ll find the ingredients listed in two categories:
- Inert ingredients. By law, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn’t require manufacturers to list the inert ingredients. However, many of these ingredients have been shown to be more toxic than the active ingredients (and even undergo less safety testing). A good rule of thumb? Avoid products which don’t list all the “inert” or “other” ingredients on the label. If the company isn’t willing to share its product information, there’s a chance that there’s something they don’t want to see. The EPA provides a list of minimal risk, or list 4A, ingredients approved for pesticide use. Click HERE for an EPA list of inert or ‘other’ toxic ingredients to avoid.
- Active ingredients. Locate this on the label. Then, click HERE to find the active ingredient fact sheet provided by the National Pesticide Information Center to learn about the associated health risks.
Look for the signal word
There are several ways to estimate the toxicity of pesticides in your home. One easy way is to look at the signal word, which is an indicator of the toxicity of the product. Every registered pesticide will have the words CAUTION, WARNING, or DANGER on the label, and that word reflects the level of toxicity of the product.
- Products that say CAUTION are the lowest in toxicity,
- WARNING indicates medium toxicity products, and
- DANGER is found on the most toxic products.
Always read the warning on the label. If a product is labeled DANGER—or even WARNING—think twice before using it in your home, or on your lawn or garden.
Health effects from toxic pest control
Research reveals that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer and soft tissue sarcoma. Also, a study published by the American Cancer Society found an increased risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) in people exposed to common herbicides and fungicides. Sadly, the list goes on including a recent study which reveals the collective damage to American children’s brains from pesticides (like chlorpyrifos) equates to a loss of 16.9 million IQ points. The study also warned that rising rates of autism and ADHD may be connected to exposures to chemicals like chlorpyrifos.
Children are especially prone – think about all the places they crawl, walk and put their mouth on.
7 nontoxic pest control alternatives
Ready to rid your routine of these harsh chemicals? Here are 7 nontoxic alternatives to toxic pest control. Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which utilizes common sense approaches and incorporates the most economical means with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
- Locate the source of where/why the pests are coming in and eliminate the root problem. For instance, don’t leave food out; store dry food in tightly sealed glass containers; make sure trash is covered and fill the entry holes with a non-toxic caulking.
- Follow the pheromone trail the ants leave and spray with soapy water, vinegar, coffee grounds or jalapeño pepper spray. Use red chili powder, paprika or dried peppermint at the point of entry. This will create a barrier and prevent the ants from spreading.
- Avoid toxic flea collars. Instead, feed your pet brewers yeast, either by mixing in with their food or in tablet form.
- For termites, fleas, cockroaches, spiders, you can mop your floor with a small portion of borax; just be careful if you have little ones, because it can be poisonous if ingested.
- For fleas, ticks and flies, spray garlic in your yard and on plants.
- For cockroaches, sprinkle the area with diatomaceous earth (DE); a nontoxic powder that’s the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. It works great on any insect with an exoskeleton.
- For mosquitoes, try a nontoxic spray like Terminix® AllClear® Mosquito Bait and Kill or a DIY concoction of Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus as recommended by the CDC. Only use DEET in high risk areas.
Looking for a safer pest control service in your state? Click HERE to locate one. If you have a favorite nontoxic brand or remedy, I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Feature image courtesy of taufuuu