A lot of people want to know if pest control materials are safe. Safety means something different to everyone. This is what safety means to me:
About twice a week I shampoo my hair with a mix that contains about a dozen organic extracts and only one of those hard to pronounce long technical sounding chemical names – a chemical derived from coconut oil. Every other day, I use a little fresh squeezed lemon juice as my deodorant.
I buy organic fruits and vegetables from local farmers whenever I can, and I do love me some pasture raised organic, eggs, chicken, and beef.
I keep the exterior my home free of vegetation and excess moisture (http://safeguardpestcontrol.biz/GoingGreen.html). My garden is edged with copper foil tape to prevent slugs and it is free of treated wood products.
I have spent hundreds of hours in seminars and in reading on toxicology and chemicals. I understand that 99.9% of my exposure to cancer causing materials is through the mostly organic foods I eat. Organic fruits and vegetables contain natural carcinogens, they also contain natural pesticides to ward of slug, wildlife, and insect predation. So I am careful about the additional chemicals I use which add to the burden my body already deals with.
My home is already free of conducive conditions. So I am far less likely to have a pest problem. If I have one, it will be fairly easy to take care of. I inspect my home once a month from spring through fall.
One of the basic rules of chemistry is that ALL chemicals are toxins, the deciding factor is your route of – and amount of – exposure.
Everyone is going to have a different comfort level when it comes to pesticides. This is what I have learned: ‘Essential oils’ are used in pesticide formulations. These oils come from the natural, organic pesticides that occur in flowers, and in the foods we eat. To work, they must be toxic to insects.
A lot of their effectiveness comes from VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds. That orange or mint oil that kills insects? The nice strong odor you smell? That’s what is bad for the insect. It’s also bad for you. The most toxic material we use to control pests is a type of cedar oil. It kills bed bugs on contact. VOCs. No synthetic material kills them within 4 hours. If cedar oil had any type of residual, we wouldn’t need synthetics at all.
Essential oils are in many of the materials we use. The most effective are cedar oil, rosemary oil, pyrethrin (chrysanthemum oil), geraniol, and linalool. We have green pest control programs were we use ‘all natural’ plant derived control products, and fresh water diatomaceous earth.
As used by homeowners, essential oils often mask the presence and true scope of pest activity. These materials are all highly repellent, and they tend to chase away pests more than actually kill them. Also, few homeowners understand that the pest activity they see is only a very small portion of the pest activity going on in their home. Multiply those 20 tiny ants you see, by a factor of a thousand (or more) to get a truer answer. As little as .01% of a house ant colony will ever forage inside.
Essential oils and natural pesticides are also more acutely toxic than most synthetic pest pesticides. So are your spices. And your vitamins. And the caffeine in your coffee is 50 times more toxic than the most common synthetic material we spray around houses. Most synthetic pesticides in use today are synthetic forms of nicotine and chrysanthemum oils. They are not carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic. They do not change your cells and they do not accumulate in your system.
Of course, toxicity numbers come from chemical manufacturers. So I don’t trust them. At all. I know that pesticide formulations contain unlisted ‘proprietary materials’ that are designed to make the active listed ingredients more effective.
The best information I can find is that the commercial formulations, as manufactured, are just about as acutely toxic as the caffeine I mentioned earlier. Of course, the sprays we use, only contain about ¾ of an ounce of formulation in each finished gallon of spray, and we typically use less than 2 gallons to perform a super through exterior spider spray, 1 gallon or less for ant control.
That is why we are careful to wear safety gear when applying, while we only apply to the exterior 3 or 4 times a year on regular accounts, and why we discourage spray application to the interior, unless there is heavy pest activity. It’s why stress pest prevention and non-chemical control options.
Acute toxicity of some common chemicals:
Toxicity: – the higher the mg/kg number the LOWER the toxicity:
Pyrethrins: 200—2000mg/kg (Natural chrysanthemum extract)
Vitamin D3: 619mg/kg Vitamin
Dish Soap: 1330mg/kg
Cinnamon: 2,000mg/kg Spice
Termidor: 2,000mg/kg (Synthetic nicotine formulation)
Table salt: 3,000mg/kg Spice
Vitamin C: 3,367mg/kg Vitamin
Vitamin E: 4,000mg/kg Vitamin
Premise 2: 4,870mg/kg (Synthetic nicotine formulation)
Diatomaceous Earth: 5,000mg/kg (Nat. pesticide dust -fresh water diatoms)
Suspend SC: 10,000mg/kg (Synthetic chrysanthemum formulation)
Gary Clark, co-owner of Safeguard Pest Control, is a previous President and Vice President of the Washington State Pest Control Associations and his efforts were instrumental in starting the environmental movement in pest control in Washington State and the establishment of an Environmental Awareness Committee.
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