If pesticides are bad for the food you eat and bad for the environment in general, they can't be all that great for your pets and your children. There are many options out there when you need pest control. But whatever you do, don't use these pest control products around pets and kids in your yard and home.
Unless you know what to avoid, you could be doing more harm than good when you're treating your property for unwanted pests. You might be surprised to learn how many common pesticides are actually potentially life-threatening and permanently damaging.
Why Are Pesticides Dangerous?
What's so bad about pesticides, anyway? The problem is, pesticides can be toxic to pets and children. Exposing children to chemicals, particularly when they are at an early stage of development, could cause future problems, according to Web MD. Symptoms of pest control poison might not even appear right away but end up causing serious health issues years and years later.
Don't roll the dice on potentially harming children and pets, whether it's right now or in the future. You can attempt to keep animals and children away from areas where pest control has been used but as every parent and pet owner knows, it's impossible to watch them every minute. Also, children and pets are lower to the ground and may find something on the ground or the floor and put it in their mouths.
They could pluck a leaf, a bug, or a piece of fruit off a plant and eat it quickly before you even notice. This is a risk you may not wish to take and should not take. When it comes to the safety of your children and pets, it's worth it to invest the time and care into safer pest control methods.
Types of Pesticides
You might think of spray-on solutions when you think about pest control. Exterminators often use a sprayed formula when they go to work. However, there are many different types of pesticides out there beyond spray-on forms of pest control.
Liquid pesticides take many forms, including aerosols, fumigants, fogging treatments, and several other options. There are dry pesticide treatments as well. This includes traps, granules, pellets, and powders, among others.
Any and all of these different methods can contain toxic ingredients that are extremely harmful to humans and animals. Don't assume that only liquids or sprays can be harmful. Any type of pesticide can be potentially dangerous.
Pest Control to Avoid
There are many options for controlling pests out there, so you don't have to use something unsafe just to get good results on pest management. Avoid the chemicals that could be dangerous to your children and your pets, or to children and pets belonging to other people, to keep your property safe for all.
Organophosphates are a common pesticide ingredient and a dangerous one. Malathion and disulfoton both contain organophosphates, which attack the central nervous system in order to kill pests.
Common snail and slug bait traps contain a type of organophosphate called metaldehyde. This is extremely toxic to dogs and it is fatal when eaten by dogs of any breed or size.
Ziram, carbofuran, and aldicarb, among others, are carbamate pesticides that have been proven to cause health problems in humans that can lead to reproductive disorders. These pesticides can cause toxic effects in ovarian cells and damage human immune cells.
Clearly, you want to avoid these pesticides even if it means cohabitating with bugs. Even if animals do not get sick right away from exposure to pesticides, they can suffer from conditions later, such as bladder cancer.
Triazines like simazine, ametryn, and atrazine have also shown evidence of causing toxicity in reproductive organs. Some damaging evidence suggests these pesticides could be linked to breast cancer as well. Reproductive toxicity has even been observed in animals exposed to these pesticides.
Fertilizer and Pesticide Mixtures
Some pesticides are sold in mixtures with fertilizer. This seems like an easy and efficient solution to many garden problems, as it offers both pest control and soil enrichment in one easy application. But look at the ingredient list. These mixes often contain fish meal and/or bone meal, ingredients that dogs can smell.
And since it smells like food, dogs could consume a great deal of this stuff and end up getting quite ill. Bone and fish meal are not harmful when by themselves, but anything consumed in great quantities can harm animals and the addition of pesticide ingredients almost certainly will.
What Pesticides Are Safe to Use?
You don't have to become a DIY pesticide expert just to keep rodents and bugs away from your outdoor plants and indoor living spaces. There are commercial products available that are non-toxic and safe for humans and for pets.
More commonly known as Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis is a natural insecticide that works at eliminating caterpillars and beetles. It is not harmful to humans or animals, however.
While it is not harmful to dogs or people, diatomaceous earth is fatal to many different types of insects. The type you can purchase for home use is actually food-grade, which means that you can literally eat it if you want to. You won't want to. This stuff isn't great-tasting. It is, however, very effective and safe.
In fact, you can even rub it right on your dog's coat to prevent fleas and ticks. It will get rid of slugs, ants, flies, beetles, and many other types of insects.
Diatomaceous earth is made with shellfish remains, so it's safe enough to sprinkle directly onto plants, but you'll have to reapply it every time it rains. It can also create a cloud of dust as it is applied, so you'll want to wear a mask while you're spreading diatomaceous earth.
It seems that no matter what you're talking about, essential oils make their way into the conversation at some point. These little formulas can apparently do everything, and that includes pest control. Many essential oils are safe for dogs and people, even when ingested.
Lavender will repel ants, lemon eucalyptus and pine will both keep mosquitoes away, and tea tree oil kills several parasitic insects, including fleas and ticks.
Essential oils can be sprayed right on plants and around outdoor areas. They have the added bonus of having a pleasant scent, which never hurts.
You can find this product readily available on the commercial home pesticide market in spray form. This soap formula is safe to use both in and outside the home and it kills a variety of insects, including mites and aphids.
Spray this directly on insects to treat the problem. The formula is non-toxic and it is even effective on certain types of fungus as well as insects.
Usually, you need to dilute insecticidal soap formulas before using them. They also have a rather strong smell that many find to be somewhat unpleasant, which isn't always ideal.
Neem Seed Oil
Neem oil is becoming more popular as a safe pesticide choice. Many soft-bodied insects fall to pesticides made with neem seed oil. In fact, this pesticide is a fungicide, too. It can be applied to all different plants and it's particularly effective on fruit trees.
Because this is a natural pesticide that has actually been used to kill pests for centuries, you can be confident that neem oil is not harmful. Many commercial pesticides make neem oil formulas that are marketed as safe.
This product is made from the neem tree, so it is sustainable and Earth-friendly. It is often sold in concentrate form which must be diluted with water to work. Read the instructions carefully when using this pesticide.
If you don't want to do any of the work, get someone else to do it. that's just what nematodes are going to do for you. These parasitic roundworms will eat more than 200 different pest species and yet they are not harmful to animals or people.
They simply live in the dirt and eat all the bugs you don't want in your outdoor areas. Simply order a mess of them or purchase a lot of them, throw them in the garden and let them live their lives. Pest control will rarely get any easier than this eco-friendly option. Circle of life.
DIY Pest Sprays
If you want to save some money and keep things totally non-toxic in your indoor and outdoor areas, you can always mix up your own batch of pesticides using common household ingredients.
The strong smell of garlic is distinct and it's not just aromatic to humans, insects can also smell it. Insects seem to be naturally repelled by the strong scent of garlic, which means this may not really be a pesticide at all. Either way, it does work to drive pests away.
Chop up two entire bulbs of garlic. That's not the small cloves, that's the entire bulb and yes, it's a lot of garlic. Place it into a food processor or blender with about a half cup of water. You want to make a paste.
Process the mixture and then let it sit overnight. Strain it into a jar and then fill the jar with water and mix thoroughly. Mix one cup of this highly aromatic mixture with one quart of water and spray it all over plants that have been affected by pests.
Make your own pest control formula with standard vegetable oil and liquid soap, two ingredients you probably already have in your home. Mix about one cup of oil with one tablespoon of soap and mix well.
This is a concentrated solution. Two teaspoons of this can be mixed into one quart of water, which is about four cups of water. Mix well and spray it everywhere you want pest control.
What to Look For
Not sure if a pest control product is toxic or not? Pesticides of all kinds will be marked with specific words and symbols that will let you know their toxicity level. Know how to read these labels and you'll know how to avoid the products that may do harm to your children and pets.
First, look for anything that is marked "poison" or "danger." It's safest to simply avoid anything with these words on it. Also, check for a toxicity category rating. A product marked "Toxicity Category I" is highly toxic.
These items may also have a small but still present red skull and crossbones symbol somewhere on the packaging. You may also see the word "peligro," which means "danger" in Spanish. All of these markings signal high toxicity and that means they are potentially harmful.
How toxic are these products? If a 150-pound person consumes just a few drops of one, it could cause death.
If you see the word "warning" or you see that a product is classified as Toxicity Category II, you know this can also be fatal. A 150-pound person could die from eating just one teaspoon of a substance in this category.
"Caution" accompanies products that are labeled as Toxicity Category III and Toxicity Category IV. These can be fatal to a 150-pound person in quantities of an ounce or more.
Certain active ingredients found in pesticides have been known to cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, itching, burning, irritation of skin, and other symptoms.
The active ingredients that are known to potentially cause these symptoms in humans include acephate, aldicarb, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, endosulfan, malathion, methyl parathion, phosmet, pyrethrins, and pyrethroids.
When you know what to look for, you know what to avoid to keep your property safe for all creatures... except those awful pests.