Most people feel that getting rid of household pests such as cockroaches, mice, or rats is as simple as buying pesticide and using it in the house. However, the improper use of pesticides can result in serious health problems, especially for the developing bodies of children. In 1995, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that approximately 79,000 children were involved in common household pesticide poisonings or exposures.
Pesticides are chemicals designed to control or eliminate "pests" and are sold as sprays, liquids, sticks, powders, crystals, balls, and foggers. These pesticides can end up where no one really wants or expects them in indoor air, on carpets, desks, tables, and toys, and in areas where children play. To prevent unnecessary exposure to pesticides, the National PTA encourages the use of integrated pest management (IPM) at homes and schools.
The best way to reduce pesticide use is by preventing the pests from making your house their home. Here are a few "pest prevention" suggestions:
Eliminate Food Sources. Store foods in tightly sealed containers. Keep your kitchen clean. Regularly vacuum places where food may have been dropped, including chairs and sofas. Empty your garbage can frequently.
Eliminate Shelter. Block off or get rid of pest hiding places. Many pests live inside cardboard and paper bags and cockroaches may even eat the glue that binds them together. Do not store boxes, cardboard, paper, clothes, or containers on the floor. Eliminate clutter, especially on the floor or in cabinets under sinks.
Prevent Access. Block passageways through the floor and caulk and seal openings in walls and cabinets. Install screens on windows and doors.
Reduce Moisture. Fix leaky plumbing and make sure there is no standing water in trays under your house plants, under your refrigerator, or in buckets. Do not leave wet rags and other damp materials lying around your house.
If your home has been invaded by pests, try to use non-chemical methods such as mouse traps and sticky insect traps, or more controlled pesticides such as a bait trap before using pesticide sprays or foggers. If you must use chemical pesticides, make sure to read the label and follow the directions carefully. Be sure to store any pesticides out of reach of children and make sure children are not allowed in the rooms where pesticides were recently used. Also, increase ventilation in the rooms during and after use of pesticides. If you have unused or partially used pesticide containers you want to get rid of, dispose of them according to the directions on the label or on special household hazardous waste collection days.
"Integrated Pest Management"
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a pest control method that can be implemented in homes and schools to minimize children's exposure to pesticides. Instead of relying solely on chemical pesticides to control pests, IPM uses prevention methods (i.e. removing the things that a pest needs to survive); non-chemical pest control methods such as physical controls (barriers, mousetraps, sticky traps); and if possible, natural predators (for example, cats for mice, birds that eat insects). If chemicals are necessary, the least toxic pesticides are used. Beside reducing health risks and environmental pollution, IPM can save money over the long term by reducing the need to buy expensive pesticides.
National Pesticide Telecommunications Network
This toll-free hot line is available to answer your questions about pesticides and to provide selected U.S. EPA publications on pesticides.
Citizen's Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety
Publication Number EPA 730-K-95-001
Least Toxic Home Pest Control
Revised Ed. by Dan Stein
This book explains how to solve most common pest problems with a minimum amount of harmful chemicals. It provides an overview of the principles of Integrated Pest Management and how you can apply them in your home. Published by the Book Publishing Company, November, 1995 (ISBN#: 0913990078). Cost is $8.95. Available at most bookstores and libraries.
Excerpted from: Our World:National PTA Environmental Awareness Program
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