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Tips for Reducing Pesticide Exposure in Your Home

Topic Overview

Before using any pesticide, make sure you really need to use it.

  • Keep your food in well-sealed containers so that insects such as ants can't get at it.
  • Block off ways that bugs can get into your house. Keep plants, firewood, and other plant material at least 18 in. (46 cm) from your house.
  • For your gardens and yard, choose healthy plants suited for your area and use proper cultivation methods. Pests in your garden often can be controlled without pesticides by picking the pests off plants or by mulching.
  • Realize that your lawn does not have to be completely free of weeds and that many insects are beneficial.

If you do use pesticides, read the label carefully. Do not mix or dilute pesticides indoors. And only use them outside or in a well-ventilated area. Mix only as much as you need. Limit your exposure to pesticides by doing the following:

  • Avoid using pesticides indoors.
  • Use nonchemical pest control whenever possible. Some choices include:
    • Helpful insects, such as ladybugs or praying mantises, which eat some pests.
    • Detergent pesticides, such as Safers.
    • Traps that use natural chemicals (pheromones) to attract pests.
    • Biological controls, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (helps with moths such as cabbage moths and gypsy moths).
  • Always wear the right protection when spraying pesticides. That might include goggles, gloves, a dust mask, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and a hat.
  • Never spray pesticides on a windy day. Be careful to avoid spraying flowers and bird nests, because many pesticides can harm bees and other pollinators and birds.
  • Make sure you and your pets do not track outdoor pesticides into your house.
  • To prevent problems with termites, do not store wooden building materials against soil.
  • Dispose of used pesticide containers according to the directions on the label. Do not throw away leftover pesticides in the regular trash. Dispose of unused pesticides only on days that your trash collector designates for hazardous waste collection, or go to a hazardous waste drop-off site.
  • Never store pesticides in a soft drink bottle or other container used for food. Children may think it is something to eat or drink.
  • Clean up any pesticide spill right away by soaking it up with sawdust, kitty litter, or vermiculite, sweeping it into a trash bag, and disposing of it as directed on the pesticide label. Do not wash the spill away.
  • Limit your exposure to moth repellents. Paradichlorobenzene is a common ingredient in moth repellents and air fresheners. Avoid breathing any vapors containing this chemical.

If you use a pest-control company, ask for a written contract that lists pests that will be controlled and the chemicals that will be used. If you have questions about a product you or a company plan to use, call the National Pesticide Information Center toll-free at 1-800-858-PEST (1-800-858-7378), or visit their website at http://npic.orst.edu.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2005). Citizen's Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. Available online: http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/Publications/Cit_Guide/citguide.pdf.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Current as of October 8, 2013

Current as of: October 8, 2013

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