Pesticides could still be lingering even if you don’t use them

Even If You Don’t Use Pesticides, Your Home May Harbor Them

Study: Pesticides used to kill ants, cockroaches, fleas, ticks, lice and other lawn, garden and home pests can still be found in U.S. kitchens decades after they were used. Children and pets are the most likely to be exposed.

Two new reports out this week provide two more good reasons to avoid using pesticides whenever possible.

The first found that pesticides linger in living spaces long after they’ve been used to kill roaches, ants, wasps, fleas and ticks or other pests in the home, lawn and garden. The Environmental Protection Agency study was published in Environmental Science & Technology (and summarized nicely by Environmental Health News).

About 165 pesticide compounds are probable or possible carcinogens, according to the EPA, and a recent study linked pesticide exposure during pregnancy to leukemia. Other pesticides may mimic hormones and affect early childhood development, reproduction and other diseases. Pesticides have been linked to everything from Parkinson’s disease to obesity, and they often stay on the market long after independent scientists raise serious concerns about their safety.

The results were sobering: Most U.S. kitchen floors are laced with pesticides — several known to be toxic and several that were banned decades ago. The most commonly found pesticides are listed here in order of the most to least common:

  • Permethrin (an insecticide found in some head lice treatments, pet flea and tick products and other insect repellents) was found in 89% of homes tested.
  • Chlorpyrifos (an insecticide sold for decades for home use as Dursban until 2001) was found in 78% of homes.
  • Chlordane (an insecticide banned in 1984, but used for decades on home lawns and gardens before that) was found in 74% of homes.
  • Piperonyl butoxide (a chemical used with pyrethrin and similar pesticides to kill wasps, ants, fleas and ticks, lice and other pests) was found in 52% of homes.
  • Cypermethrin (an insecticide found in some Raid products and other ant and roach killers) was found in 46% of homes.
  • DDT (an insecticide banned in 1972 but used widely to kill mosquitoes and other insects for decades before then) was found in 42% of homes. (DDE, a breakdown product of DDT was found in 33% of homes.)
  • Fipronil (an insecticide found in some Frontline, TopChoice, Over’n Out! and Maxforce products) was found in 40% of homes.
  • Diazinon (an insecticide used widely to kill ants, roaches and other pests, as well as lawn and garden pests, until household use was banned in 2004) was found in 35% of homes.

The results suggest a couple important things: One, that current homeowners don’t have complete control over the contaminants in their homes, given that these pesticides linger for decades in indoor spaces; and two, that children and pets are most likely to be exposed to these chemicals, given that they crawl around on the floor and are more likely to ingest dust from the floor.

For nontoxic alternatives to pest control, try this “least toxic” pest control database from Beyond Pesticides.

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