Pesticides – To Spray Or Not To Spray?
Before you reach for the pesticides, bug spray, or call the exterminator, consider that once you’ve sprayed, pesticide residues can remain years later. Luckily, there are resources to help inform you whether you want to use it in the first place and what to do after-the-fact to limit exposure and clean up pesticide residues.
There is little data on concentrations of pesticides found inside homes, but the studies that do exist indicate that interior pesticide residues are the norm rather than the exception.
A U.S. EPA study conducted between 2005- 2006 found residues of the pesticide fipronil on floor wipes in approximately 40% of homes studied.
Another 2008 study measured pesticide residues within public housing dwellings in Boston, Massachusetts. Pesticides were detected in all of the homes including banned or restricted use products.
Pesticides will break down over time
This breakdown time is called the “half-life.” Half-lives can vary widely based on environmental factors. The amount of chemical remaining after a half-life will always depend on the amount of the chemical originally applied. This process occurs more slowly inside leaving the chance of residues for a longer period of time. The pesticide DDT is an extreme example of a long half-life. DDT was banned from the U.S. in 1972 but it and its decomposition products can still be found in soil samples today, 45 years later.
All pesticides for sale in the country must be registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the registration process, the EPA assesses potential human health and environmental risks by reviewing ingredients, data from studies, intended uses, and storage and disposal practices, among many other aspects. If data arises at a later date regarding the safety of the product, the pesticide can have its registration withdrawn and the pesticide will no longer be legal for sale in the U.S.
The EPA has a cooperative agreement with Oregon State University, which operates The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC). This center provides objective, science-based information about a variety of pesticide-related subjects, including pesticide products, recognition and management of pesticide poisonings, toxicology, and environmental chemistry. NPIC also lists state pesticide regulatory agencies, and provides links to their Web sites.
Organizations dedicated to informing the public on pesticides
Beyond Pesticides (BP) provides the public with useful information on pesticides and alternatives to their use. With this information, people can protect themselves and the environment from the potential adverse public health and environmental effects associated with the use and misuse of pesticides.
BP has created a database tool to access current and historical information on pesticide hazards and safe pest management.
For technical resources, the National Institute of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine maintains databases on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases. TOXNET is a toxicology data network with information on pesticides, among other chemicals.
The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Pesticide Database is a one-stop location for toxicity and regulatory information for pesticides. The database and website are updated and enhanced by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA).
New Pesticide Regulations
In addition to the persistent residues, exposure to airborne pesticides is a risk, especially in farming communities. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is currently working on rules that will restrict farmers from spraying pesticides within a quarter mile (0.4 kilometers) of public K-12 schools and licensed daycare centers from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the school week. The new regulations take effect Jan. 1, 2018 and apply to crop dusters flying over fields, air blasters spraying orchards and fumigants along with most dust and powder pesticides that could be blown onto school grounds by the wind.
By Laurel Cain, Healthy Building Science, Environmental Inspector
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