In your busy
world today, you have to contend with an endless array of pests:
in your kitchen
in your sunroom
in your attic
in your garden
It has become
so convenient to just run down to the hardware store for the latest
bug killer to solve the problem, you don't think twice about it.
But perhaps you should.
For in trying
to solve one small challenge, you could be creating an even bigger
One of the
main issues with pesticides is that you cannot see them and they
tend to easily spread by the wind. If they would just remain where
they were sprayed, that would be one thing, but they do not. Volatile
pesticides drift all over when sprayed,
and can spread a good distance if there is circulating air or
droplets are so small in fact, they can stay suspended in the
air and carried by air currents until they contact a surface,
or drop to the ground.
means is they can contaminate many different surfaces inside and
outside your home, including yourself, your family, pets, wildlife
and their habitats, as well as the plants, trees, and grass around
who come in contact with areas that have been sprayed or where
spray has drifted – for example, a pet rolling on the grass
(or eating it), or a child playing in the garage or sunroom –
can also be negatively affected.
Extensive is Pesticide Use?
In 2001, Senator
Patrick Leahy reported that there had been a 40-percent increase
in annual pesticide use since 1993.
We now use over 4.5 billion pounds of u201Cregisteredu201D pesticides annually.
it has been estimated that about 70–75 million pounds of
over 300 different active pesticide ingredients are applied to
lawns and gardens yearly.
of pounds of these poisons then find their way, intentionally
or unintentionally, into your food and water supplies on an annual
Impact on Your Environment
caused by reliance on pesticides has resulted
in pesticide-related destruction of many natural enemies of pests,
as well as the development of pesticide resistance; crop pollination
problems and honeybee losses;
crop and crop product losses; and bird, fish, bats,
and other wildlife losses.
caused by pesticides cost farmers and producers approximately
$1.4 billion yearly; bird losses due to pesticides ring up at
$2.2 billion yearly; and groundwater contamination at $2.0 billion
studies have shown that often less than 0.1 percent of an applied
pesticide reaches the target pest, leaving 99.9 percent as an
unintended pollutant in the environment.
and soil contamination is caused when pesticides that are sprayed
or applied directly to soil are then washed off by rain, irrigation,
or flooding, into nearby bodies of water. Or they may seep through
topsoil into lower layers of soil and into deeper groundwater.
which are applied directly to bodies of water for weed control,
or indirectly from soil runoff or other factors, can cause not
only a buildup of pesticides in water, but can lead to a buildup
of pesticides in the air, through evaporation.
Persistence in Soil
break down faster and more easily than others, having shorter
u201Chalf lives,u201D but some may remain longer in soil.
below shows some of the major pesticides and their relative duration
(half-life 30 days)
(half-life 30-100 days)
(half-life >100 days)
- Methyl Parathion
difficult a pesticide is to break down, the more damage it can
cause to the environment and living beings, because it is more
susceptible to soil runoff and evaporation into the air. In addition,
measurable amounts can move through the atmosphere and accumulate
in more distant locations.
most pesticides contain unregistered and untested u201Cinert ingredients.u201D
These so-called inert substances can be more dangerous (or can
contaminate an area longer) than the active or u201Cregisteredu201D poisons
in the pesticide formula itself.
pesticides can become ineffective at killing pests because they
develop resistance to it. Most farmers and other growers became
familiar with pesticide resistance in the 1950s, as a result of
widespread insect resistance to DDT.
growers have come to expect the eventual loss of pesticide effectiveness
because of resistance. By the mid-1980s, there were records of
about 450 resistant species of insects and mites.
occurs when products of a chemical group are used repeatedly.
At first, only a very small proportion of a pest population survives
exposure to the pesticide, but each time the pesticide is reapplied,
a greater proportion of resistant pests survive.
pests then pass on the genes for pesticide resistance to their
progeny. Each subsequent use of the pesticide increases the proportion
of the less-susceptible pests in the population.
And because the resistance happens so quickly, it is generally
not recognized until wide-spread resistance has occurred.
do become resistant, more virulent and dangerous pesticides are
rolled out to address the resistance, causing greater human and
environmental damage. It is estimated that the cost of catering
to pest resistance costs the government at least $1.5 billion
while bugs and other pests have very short life spans, they can
easily become resistant to these toxic chemicals. You live much
longer than these pests and are unable to develop resistance in
your lifetime.  So
the poisons in pesticides, which are often stored in your fatty
tissue, can become carcinogenic, or they can emerge later to cause
Problem of Bioaccumulation
another inherent hazard to allowing pesticides
to contaminate water supplies and other areas of the environment.
Fish that live in, or animals that drink pesticide-tainted water
or eat vegetation, become u201Ccarriersu201D of the pesticide. In other
words, they store and accumulate the pesticide in their bodies
by fish, for example, of a very water-insoluble pesticide (which
means it doesn't break down in water) means that if a tainted
fish were eaten by a human, who can also store the pesticide,
the levels of the poison in the human can reach much higher levels
than those present in either the water, or in the fish.
of a pesticide in a fish can be tens, to hundreds of thousands
of times greater than in the water in which the fish lived, you
can see how this problem escalates tremendously. Scientists call
this toxic buildup bioaccumulation.
and your family are at the top of the food chain, you are all
exposed to these high levels of toxins whenever you consume fish
or other animals that have bioaccumulated pesticides or other
organic chemicals in their bodies.
Illnesses: Can Be Caused by Pesticides
M.D., noted that current clinical, scientific and governmental
studies indicate a staggering increase in the incidence of environmentally
all commercial pesticides are neurotoxins. That means they can
damage your nervous system. It is no surprise then that they can
cause all sorts of illnesses.
to Thomas Kerns, author of Environmentally Induced Illnesses,
pesticides may be responsible for many u201Cadverse health effectsu201D
including cancer, immune system dysfunction, neural damage such
as Parkinson's Disease, and respiratory disorders, just to name
a few. 
found that pesticide residue can be found not only in yards and
outside areas where children and adults play and sit, but on household
items such as carpets, toys, pillows, bedding, furniture, and
A few years
ago, the Environmental Protection Agency had to stop builders
from using the pesticide Dursban in new homes, because studies
showed it affected the nervous system of children.
poisons have become so pervasive and have been seeping into your
soil, water, and air for many years, it is becoming increasingly
difficult to control their impact on you and your environment.
Are the Most Susceptible to Pesticides?
is susceptible to environmental pesticides, some groups of people
are more sensitive than others. One group is pregnant women.
has shown that exposure to a number of different environmental
chemicals has been linked with infertility.
Chemicals contained in such items as Teflon cookware, floor wax,
food wrapping, carpet treatments, and other cleaning products
It is not
a far stretch to assume that pesticides, composed of even more
toxic ingredients than these household products, could also adversely
affect fertility – for males as well as females.
a 2007 article in the Los Angeles Times reported that
women who lived near California farm fields sprayed with organochlorine
pesticides were more likely to give birth to autistic children.
studies have found that exposure to chemicals is believed to be
a causative factor in miscarriages
and stillbirths. And
alarmingly, recent research shows a drug often given to stop premature
labor could be making the brains of young children more vulnerable
to contaminants in the environment.
One of the
studies involved rats that were exposed to terbutaline, the pre-term
labor drug. Researchers found the rats getting the drug suffered
more brain cell damage upon exposure to an insecticide than those
not given the drug.
It is not
unusual for one drug to cause a heightened sensitivity to another
drug or chemical, because chemical exposure has been known to
sensitize you to future exposures. It seems you have the opposite
problem of pests; instead of becoming resistant to repeated exposures
– you unfortunately can become more sensitized to them!
Women and Children at Increased Risk
You can see
just how dangerous pesticide exposure can be, and even more so
for children in the womb. Pregnant women need to be excessively
cautious during this time and make as great an effort as possible
to avoid these chemicals.
on the pesticide Atrazine, a toxin that has been banned in seven
European countries, showed it could cause mutations in frogs.
Atrazine is widely found in U.S. waters, particularly after planting
season, when rain causes the chemical to spread from the fields
into the water supply.
toxins like this are migrating into your waterways, and likely
into your drinking water, it would not surprise me to soon find
they are clearly implicated in human birth deformities.
very susceptible portion of the population is undoubtedly young
to one study, which tested over 2,600 people for levels of 34
different kinds of pesticides, a large percentage of those tested
were found to carry harmful levels of pesticides in their bodies.
women, and Mexican Americans showed the greatest effects of exposure
to these chemicals.
ages 6 to 11 in the study had been exposed to chlorpyrifos, a
pesticide designed to kill insects by altering the nervous system,
and had four times the level considered safe by the U.S. Environmental
also shows that a vast majority of schools are now routinely using
pesticides, whether they need to or not.
Entomologist Mark Lame believes this is an entirely unnecessary
practice that carries more risks than benefits to students and
The most widely used pesticides are actually nerve poisons. They
cause uncontrolled nerve firing and disrupt delicate hormone systems.
Children are most susceptible to being affected by these toxins.
never be used around schools, especially when children are present,
either in the classrooms, or especially when children are outside.
Yourself from Pesticides
the influx of pesticides into your environment, there are ways
you can protect yourself from exposure, and minimize future exposure.
One of my best suggestions, if you live in a geographical area
that uses a great deal of pesticides, is to move to a more rural,
other ways you can avoid pesticides and common household toxins,
and thereby reduce your total body burden of chemicals.
But first and foremost, if you have children in your home, you
must protect them from any contamination by removing all dangerous
pesticides and toxic products in your home.
Study: Most Home Storage of Pesticides is Unsafe
survey conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
regarding pesticides in and around the home revealed some startling
half of all households with children under the age of five
had at least one pesticide stored in an UNLOCKED cabinet less
than four feet off the ground, which was within a child's
75 percent of households without children under the age of
5 also stored pesticides in an UNLOCKED cabinet, again less
than four feet off the ground.
and kitchens were cited as areas most likely to have improperly
stored pesticides – for example, common household pesticides
such as roach spray, chlorine bleach, disinfectants, insect
repellents, pet shampoo, and flea and tick products. All these
products, plus swimming pool products and lawn products like
weed killer, can potentially cause poisoning if not used and
are very significant, because 13 percent of all pesticide poisonings
occur in homes other than the child’s home.
to Protect Your Family from Pesticides
Get rid of
any pesticides or herbicides in your home, including insecticides
or lawn and garden products. There are safe natural alternatives
that can be used in their place. See the section below, called
The Safe Alternatives.
The following 12 foods have the lowest pesticide load
when conventionally grown. Consequently, they are the safest conventionally
grown crops to consume:
these 12 fruits and vegetables had the highest pesticide
load, making them the most important to buy or grow organic:
have an Artisan well or well water that has been tested so you
know it is safe and clean, then the water you use for showering,
bathing, washing dishes, cooking, and drinking is likely to be
contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and other toxins.
any doubt that pesticides and herbicides – not to mention
fertilizers, plastics, and toxic metals – are affecting American
children's mental capacities, emotional balance, and social adjustment?
Not in my mind.
Talk to your child's school administration about their use of
pesticides. Open up a dialog and raise awareness to the fact that
there are other, safer alternatives out there.
more companies are responding to consumer demand for cleaner,
u201Cgreener,u201D products. Suppliers are increasingly providing cleaning
products that contain natural or naturally derived ingredients,
while avoiding the use of environmentally harmful chemicals.
it can still be a challenge to find a truly safe yet effective
is boric acid powder. Boric acid powder has been found to be a
very effective deterrent to roaches and ants.
Sprinkle some in the inner corners of your cabinets and in the
corners under your cabinets. Pests will carry it back to their
nests on their feet and kill the remainder of the infestation.
Boric acid is non-toxic for animals and only kills the insects.
oil has been found to be a better and healthier alternative to
head lice? Avoid using the pesticide lindane.
Instead, use an old-fashioned nit comb, plus the oils of anise
and ylang ylang combined into a natural spray. This has been found
to be highly effective in eliminating about 92 percent of head
types of natural pest solutions, check out the book Dead Snails
Leave No Trails, by Nancarrow and Taylor, or visit the website
is yet another excellent source of information on how to limit
pesticides in you and your family's environment.
Jess Silver, Becky Riley, 2001, Environmental
Impact of Pesticides Commonly Used on Urban Landscapes
Jess Silver, Becky Riley, 2001, Environmental
Impact of Pesticides Commonly Used on Urban Landscapes
Cornell University, Prof. David Pimentel, Pesticide
Impact on the Environment, 2005 Impact Statement
Los Angeles Times. July 30, 2007, Maria Cone, Pesticide
Link to Autism Suspected – A State Study Suggests Two Farm Sprays
May Raise Chances of Having a Child with the Disorder