A pest is a broad term to define any entity that threatens the health or safety of the environment or people. Pesticides are the means of removing, preventing or killing pests. Pests can be weeds, which are simply misplaced plants. They can be ants in the home, mice in the barn or deer destroying ornamental plantings. Just because a chemical is deemed common, it doesn't imply that it is safe. Pesticide application is serious, but it is only a short-term fix. Pest control is best accomplished by prevention.
Because they are agents of destruction, all pesticides carry some risks. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the governing agency for the regulation of pesticides. Pesticides must be registered with the agency. Application of pesticides is also regulated at the state level. Illinois, for example, requires individuals to pass an exam before being licensed.
Since 1979, the EPA has recorded pesticide usage in the United States. It estimates that more than 300 million pounds of pesticides are applied each year. A look at the 27 most commonly used pesticides reveals some startling facts. Of these 27, 15 are considered carcinogens by the EPA. Others have been associated with genetic disabilities, deaths in children and farm workers, as well as pet deaths.
Diazinon is one common pesticide used for household pests in the home or on lawns. It is non-selective, meaning it kills a variety of insects including ants, aphids and mites. It is classified as an acute and chronic health hazard and a fire hazard. It can be fatal if ingested. It is also highly toxic to birds, fish and wildlife. By law, all of this information, including emergency safety instructions, is included on package labels.
The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) provides information about pesticide toxicity. Acetochlor is another common pesticide found in its database. It is categorized at the highest level of concern because of its toxicity. Other highly toxic pesticides include malathion, metolachlor and mancozeb. All are in this same high category, and all are among the most commonly used pesticides. Clearly, a balance of the risks and the benefits must be part of the decision to apply these toxic chemicals.
Common pesticides offer an immediate fix to a pest problem, but only a fix. Pesticides may kill the mice entering your home, but if you don't seal the openings where they are entering, mice will return. Raccoons will still get into the garbage if it not somehow secured. Insects will return to the corn fields if crops are not rotated. Only prevention provides long-term solutions to pests.
- Pesticide Action Network
- "Illinois Pesticide Applicator Training Manual"; P.L. Nixon, C.D. Anderson, N.R. Pataky, R.E. Wolf, R.J. Ferree, L.E. Bode; 1995
- Journal of Pesticide Reform; Top Ten Reasons Not To Use Pesticides; C.Cox; June 2006
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