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by Larry

July, 2008

Getting Rid of Pests Safely

Both the young and the old, not to mention our pets at any age, can be rather susceptible to illness or worse from a variety of commercial pesticides. As if that were not enough reason to exercise caution in using such products, they are quite hard to safely remove from the environment. Their residual effects may linger in our homes for years, can accumulate in our yards, wash away into aquifers from which people and animals need to drink, or pollute runoff that eventually makes its way into rivers, lakes, or the ocean.

The environmental problem is also increased because most do not properly dispose of pesticide containers, almost all of which retain poisons even when apparently empty. Once in landfills, the remaining chemicals can leach out and flow into groundwater. The subtle long-term effects of even small amounts of these substances can weaken or kill vegetation and cause mutations, cancers, and disability in humans as well as multiple animal species.

Exposure to pesticides that use petrochemicals as their active ingredients may be implicated in acute leukemia in children, in a higher Parkinson's disease incidence, in brain, pancreatic, and kidney cancers, as well as in heart complications (including heart attacks) for those with weakened cardiac and pulmonary systems.

Why take chances? There are healthier ways to deal with most of those pesky critters. Here are six less risky approaches to ridding your home and outdoor surroundings of unwanted insects, mites, and rodents:

  • A little powdered cinnamon, cayenne pepper, shredded bay leaves, or even baby powder sprinkled in household areas where ants have been sighted often does the trick, encouraging them to find more pleasant places to colonize or forage.

  • For cockroaches, a light half-and-half sprinkling of baking soda and confectioner's sugar should take care of the trouble.

  • Potted sweet basil or little packets of crushed mint, spread around the house, discourage the appearance of flies.

  • Mice and rats may avoid or leave the area if one puts cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil in suspect parts of the house or in storage locations.

  • To ward off mosquitoes, either put a little lavender oil on wrists and elbows (plus knees if wearing shorts) or mix a couple teaspoonfuls of apple vinegar in a glass of water and leave it on the deck or balcony.

  • To keep ticks and chiggers more at bay, try sprinkling sulfur powder around pant cuffs and on the part of your socks exposed above the shoes.

Main Sources:
Hazards at Home. Reed Karaim in AARP Bulletin, Vol. 49, No. 4, pages 28-30; May, 2008.

Comprehensive Review of Pesticide Research Confirms Dangers. Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP), press release in; April 23, 2004.

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