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Pesticides in Homes: A Hidden Danger

written by: nanjowe•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 2/13/2012

Using pesticides may help keep unwanted bugs away but it comes with a price.

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    Pesticides More Harm than Good

    pesticide, Pesticides are a general name for a class of compounds that are designed to destroy pests. Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. These chemicals are used for pest control indoors and outdoors. Their chemical composition enables them to destroy pests by using different actions. Some pesticides are nerve agents while others destroy pests by using corrosive action.

    Over the past couple of decades pesticides have been scrutinized as suspects in causing harmful health effects to those exposed. Even after careful usage some pesticides still find a way to impact people’s health. Chemical pesticides that are used outdoors on the lawn find their way indoors on the soles of feet or shoes. Once indoors the pesticides vapor lingers for a long time up to years after application.

    The same can be said for pesticides used indoors. Exposure to pesticides has been linked to increased risk of cancer, fetal abnormalities, miscarriages and infertility.

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    Pesticides Use Linked to Cancer

    Chlordane used in termite control has been linked to breast cancer. Researchers found that cancerous human breast tissue contained a component of chlordane. Chlordane had been used in an estimated 50 million homes between 1950 and 1988. (Cassidy et al., “Breast Cancer Linked to Home Pesticide Chlordane" Breast Cancer Research and Treatment Volume 90:55-64, 2005).

    Children exposed to household insecticides used in professional extermination are up to 7 times at risk to developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The increase risk exposure can occur during pregnancy or as a result of early childhood exposure.

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    Birth Defects Higher When Pregnant Women Exposed to Pesticides

    A study conducted on families living near a wheat growing region determined that babies born had a 65 percent higher chance of having birth defects. The babies were also prone to respiratory and circulatory birth defects. If the babies were conceived during the peak months of pesticide application the risk of birth defects rose to 75 percent.

    The pesticides applied were chlorophenoxy herbicides which contain 2, 4-D. This class of herbicides are also used to kill garden weeds. (Schreinemachers, Dina “Birth Defects Higher in Babies Born to Families Living near Farming Areas using Pesticides" Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 111(9):1259-1264, July, 2003)

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    What This Means for You

    So what can you do now? Read the instructions carefully and follow the recommended directions. It is important to learn how to use pesticides safely. You can also try some natural, pet and people-safe pesticides.