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Pests and Pesticides  

Do you use pesticides in your home?

Almost every household uses pesticides. But many people don't understand that they can be a danger. Bug spray, flea powder, rat poison, and weed killer are all types of pesticides. These products have chemicals that kill pests. That also means they can harm you and your family. If they are not used safely, some pesticides may cause serious health problems -- poisoning, birth defects, nerve damage, and even cancer.

Your children can come into contact with pesticides in many ways. You can take simple steps to protect you and your family's health by following the action items listed below.

Pests in the Home

  • Seal cracks and crevices where pests can get into your home. Repair or replace screens and windows to keep out flying pests. Check boxes, bags and other containers before bringing them into your home for stowaway roaches and other insects.
  • Regular housekeeping will help keep away bugs and other pests. Eat at the table -- not walking around your home. Clean up spills or crumbs right away. Wash your dirty dishes right after meals, and don't leave the dishwater in your sink overnight.
  • Keep a tight lid on your trash cans and empty them regularly so pests can't make a meal or a home out of your garbage.
  • Pests need water to survive. Keep them from getting it by fixing leaks and not leaving water in the sink or in your pet's bowl overnight.
  • Keep pests out of your food by storing it in tightly sealed plastic or glass containers.

Pesticide Use

  • Sprays spread pesticides over a larger area than products like baits or traps do, making exposure more likely. Clean your house thoroughly after treating for roaches to reduce roach allergies.
  • Wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often if you use pesticides in your home. Regularly clean floors, windowsills, and other surfaces.
  • Flea collars, sprays and powders contain pesticides that may be harmful to people. Control fleas by washing bedding often, shampooing pets, vacuuming floors, and using flea combs and traps.
  • Read the label and follow the instructions. Use only the amount directed and for the purpose listed. Look for signal words. All pesticide labels include words such as Caution, Warning, or Danger to warn you about a product's hazards. If you have questions about a pesticide, call the company that made it. An 800 number is usually on the label. You can also call the National Pesticide Telecommunications Network at 1-800-858-7378.
  • When applying a pesticide, keep children away until it has dried or for the time recommended on the label.
  • Never smoke, eat, or drink while using a pesticide. You could accidentally breathe some in or get it in your mouth.
  • Always wash your hands after using bug spray, weed killer and other pesticides.
  • When using bug repellent on children, read all directions first. Do not put it on over cuts or broken skin. Do not apply to eyes, mouth, hands, or directly on the face. Use just enough to cover skin or clothing. Don't use it under clothing.
  • Protect your skin, your eyes, and your lungs while using pesticides.
  • Mix and/or apply pesticides outdoors or in an area with plenty of fresh air if possible.
  • Use the least toxic chemical you can find for the job.

Pesticide Storage

  • Store pesticides only in the container they came in. Never put them in a soft drink bottle or any other kind of container.
  • Mix and apply only the amount of pesticide you need so you don't end up with leftovers.
  • Store bug spray, weed killer and other pesticides in a locked cabinet or other area where children and pets can't get at them. Remember to keep empty pesticide containers out of the reach of children too.
  • Never store pesticides with or near food. Store them only in the container they came in. Never put them in a soft drink bottle or other food container.
  • Follow the directions on the label for how to throw away pesticides properly. Never use an empty pesticide container for another purpose. Call the National Pesticide Telecommunications Network at 1-800-858-7378 if you have questions about using or disposing of a pesticide.

Minimize pesticides in foods

  • Wash and scrub fruits and vegetables under running water before cooking or serving. After washing, peel fruits and vegetables when possible or throw away the outer portion of leafy vegetables to lower the amount of pesticide you and your children take in. Eating a variety of foods will also lessen your chances of taking in lots of a single type of pesticide.
  • Always trim the fat from meat and skin from poultry and fish - some pesticides collect in animal fat.

Pesticides in your yard

  • You can often control weeds by hand pulling or hoeing. Decide if you can tolerate a few weeds or insects and you won't have to use pesticides.
  • Clean up dead leaves and debris from your yard or garden to get rid of homes for pests.
  • Pesticides can be dangerous. Use them only if you know there is a problem or what the pest or problem is.

To learn more about pesticides, please visit the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Buncombe County.