Pesticide poisoning is more common than most parents realize. Bug sprays and repellants kill the pests but they can also pose serious health risks especially to babies, young children, and pregnant women. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency warns of several diseases associated with pesticide exposure.
Here are some tips on how to avoid pesticide exposure and poisoning. While they may not completely eliminate your child’s contact with pesticides (for example, some of these cling to fruits and vegetables after harvest) they can help prevent toxic levels.
Know what you’re buying
Always use your common sense in buying products from the supermarket. Read the warning label carefully and follow directions.
Keep them out of reach
Store pesticides and household chemicals on high tables or shelves (usually higher than 4 feet). Use a cabinet you can lock, or buy a plastic lock for the handles
Use the proper containers
Close the pesticide container properly before storing or in between uses. Never transfer pesticides to different containers that children will associate with foods or drinks, like soda or water bottles. There are cases of kids being hospitalized with a burned esophagus and stomach because they drank liquid lye from a juice bottle, thinking it was their favorite drink.
Pack before you spray
Before spraying, cover sofas and tables with cloth. Remove all toys, books and other items your child frequently touches or uses. And, of course, keep children and their toys away from areas where you spray or apply pesticide for at least 2 hours.
Be as cautious with topical repellants
For insect repellants that you apply on their skin; read the labels first. Apply only to required/indicated areas, and never put near the eyes, face, mouth, hands, open wounds/cuts or irritated skin.
Wash your child’s things
Wash the child’s hands, toys, floor areas, walls and other surfaces to reduce exposure. Air can bring microscopic droplets of pesticide across the room.
Consider safer options
Mims do have safer choices when it comes to pesticides, but they may not necessarily be better in controlling the pest population. These include using the ‘newer’ types of pesticides mentioned above—biochemical biopesticides—as these are naturally-occurring substances that inhibit or regulate the replication of the pest species (e.g., pheromones).
Other non-chemical methods, which are also part of what is collectively termed as ‘integrated pest management,’ include mechanical trapping devices, natural predators (e.g., insects that eat other insects) and insect growth regulators.
Some safe pesticides are sold in websites like ecosmart (labelled “safe for kids and pets”) or you can make your own using harmless ingredients found in your own kitchen.
For example, mosquitos and aphid flies hate the smell of garlic. Just soak about 4 ounces of garlic bulbs in mineral oil for 24 hours. Then add a teaspoon of fish emulsion and a pint of water. Run the liquid through a strainer and then store in a glass (not metal) container. You can then use this solution for several weeks: just add one part to 20 parts of water.
Another option is to mix 2 tablespoons of dish detergent and a gallon of tepid water and 2 drops of olive oil. Store in a spray bottle and use this to “stun” grubs, fleas, caterpillars, fleas, and other garden pests.
Photo from kollewin.com