Control Household Pests Without Scary Poisons

Why you should Go with Pest Borders

When the creepies come crawling, it’s tempting to reach for a can of Insect Eliminator and spray them away. But not so fast. “People have a knee-jerk reaction and think, ‘I need poison now!'” says Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a senior scientist in NRDC’s Health program. Even if all you want to see is those pests’ feet in the air, she says, remember that there are often safer, nonchemical control methods that will solve your problem.

The problem with pesticides

For the good of our health—and that of our planet—scientists say we need to reconsider our dependence on synthetic pesticides. Since they came into widespread use after World War II, these toxic chemicals have seeped into 90 percent of our streams and rivers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans now have an average of 43 different pesticides in their bloodstreams. These are chemicals that can trigger everything from nausea, vomiting, and headaches to more serious health concerns, such as lung damage, reproductive problems, and cancer.

Pesticides are especially hazardous to children, who spend more time closer to the ground where these chemicals are often applied. Kids are also less resilient to these toxic chemicals than adults, and their developing brains are more susceptible to neurological problems and learning disabilities caused by exposure. Of all the cases of pesticide poisoning in the United States, half of them are in kids under six.

Less means more

The worst part of insecticide overuse and poisoning is that these chemicals aren’t always that effective. “Pesticides can’t always eradicate pest infestations because they can’t kill them off at every stage of their life cycles,” Rotkin-Ellman explains. Consider fleas, which take about a month to hatch from eggs and develop into larvae, then pupae, and then adults. Many of the chemicals used in conventional flea treatments target only fully grown fleas. Meanwhile, human exposure to these chemicals can trigger dizziness, vomiting, and convulsions and have long-term effects on learning and behavior.

Just as they’re sometimes ineffective, pesticides can also backfire and made bug infestations even worse. Spray them on an ant colony, for instance, and it can spur the ants to divide into multiple colonies and ramp up reproduction. “Bugs often grow resistant to pesticides,” Rotkin-Ellman explains. “Spray them and they’ll just bounce back stronger.”

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