Try Green Pest Prevention

Going Buggy?

By Deirdre Wilson

By their very nature, pesticides are toxic chemicals. (The suffix in the word pesticide means “kill,” after all.) Not something you want to expose your kids – or yourself – to.

Even permethrin, a low-toxicity pesticide used in many household bug sprays, is ranked by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a possible human carcinogen. Studies have also linked it to asthma attacks and damage to the brain and central nervous system.

About 75 percent of American homes use at least one pesticide indoors in a given year, but family members may also be carrying residue from outdoor pesticides into the house. Pesticides decompose rapidly outside but can persist for years in carpet fibers, furniture and stuffed toys, according to Healthy Child Healthy World, an organization aimed at preventing children’s exposure to harmful environments.

What are your alternatives? Healthy Child Healthy World, formally known as the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, recommends the following pest-preventing measures.

• Keep a clean, well-maintained house. Wipe up food and drink spills. Keep food in airtight containers. Seal cracks and holes in walls inside and outside of your house so that pests can’t gain entry. Repair plumbing leaks so pests can’t access water.

• Don’t kill harmless household spiders. They’re natural predators to most other bugs.

• Know your friends and your enemies. Ladybugs, ants and other insects eat aphids, mites, insect eggs and other bugs that are harmful to outdoor plants. Bats and birds are also bug eaters; build a bat house in the back yard and plant a birdseed cone in your garden.

Instead of spraying, set a trap. Healthy Child Healthy World and other environmental organizations recommend cornering pests with black lights (which attract moths), pheromones (which rely on insects’ sexual attraction to each other), sticky paper (make your own by spreading honey on yellow paper) and even mechanical traps.

Finally, if you have to resort to pesticides, use the least toxic alternatives: boric acid, silica gels, baits with nonvolatile chemicals, pesticides with essential oils such as garlic and citrus oil, or insecticidal soaps made from fatty acids.

To learn more, visit Healthy Child Healthy World’s education Web site and search on “pesticides.”

Deirdre Wilson is senior editor at Dominion Parenting Media.

July 2008