All of us need to be protected from pests at home, at school or at the office. In addition to bites and stings, the grime left by some pests can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks. But unless they're used safely and correctly, harsh pesticides can be harmful, too. This Web page is designed to help you win the battle against pests and harmful chemical exposure.
Pesticides are chemicals used to kill or control pests, including bacteria, fungi, insects, and rodents. Most pesticides are toxic, which means their purpose is to kill something. They may contain volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants that cause serious health and environmental effects.
The overuse or inappropriate application of cleaning chemicals and pesticides can be a threat to human health and the environment. This page is designed to help you win the battle against pests and reduce potentially harmful chemical exposures.
Pests & Pesticides
Things you can do to reduce pests and human pesticide exposure:
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Remove the Bugs without the Toxics
- Never spray pesticides when children are present. Never allow a pest control operator to spray when children are present. Follow the directions on the label to learn when it is safe for children to return to the room or building after pesticide application. Educate yourself about how to reduce your child's chances of pesticide poisoning.
- Prevent entryways for pests. Use 16-gauge mesh screen on windows and doors. Apply sealant around pipes, plumbing, ducts, and on cracks. Look for little spaces under the doors, windows, and walls, where roaches can sneak into your house or apartment. Roaches can fit through spaces as small as a dime, so make sure the spaces are filled with caulking putty and the gaps under the doors are closed off with weather strips. To keep mice out, seal up holes with copper mesh and spray foam or caulk. Seal all holes up to five feet. Make sure all windows and doors close tightly, including underneath. Get rid of clutter where mice and cockroaches like to hide.
- Clean. Keep the building in neat, clean, orderly, and sanitary condition to minimize pest attraction to food sources or standing water. For example, there should not be food crumbs, food should be stored securely and off the floor, and vents should be free of grease. Pest infestations are directly related to the availability of food and water. Wipe up spilled water and keep the faucets turned off. Drain water out of sink and dry wet dishes. Roaches are good swimmers, and even one drop of water can satisfy a thirsty roach. Eat meals at the table or in a designated area, not all over the house. Store trash securely outside of the home. Empty trash weekly and use a garbage can with a tight fitted lid. Store food, snacks and pet food in tightly sealed containers.
- Read labels and use products correctly. State and federal laws require you use the product labeled specifically for the pest and treatment site. For example, if you have an indoor ant problem, use a pesticide labeled for indoor ant control. Do not use a product labeled for outdoor use, lawns or agricultural use.
- Store all pesticides and other chemical properly. Store all pesticides, cleaning supplies, and hazardous articles in locked areas inaccessible to children.
- Store food properly. Store food in sealable containers, such as sealable plastic containers or zipper lock bags. Allow the distance of a full broom sweep between the bottom shelf and floor of shelves. Do not store food products on the floor or in cardboard boxes, which are havens for rodents and cockroaches. Rotate your food stock and clean food storage areas vigilantly, especially beneath and behind shelves. Keep trash covered. To avoid roaches, do not store food in cardboard or paperboard boxes.
- Eliminate water sources. Keep mops off the floor, ensure floor drains are clear and sinks and counters are dry after use. Mosquitos can breed in water accumulating in puddles or buckets outdoors. If tires are used for swings or climbing devices, drill small holes in them to prevent water collection.
- Keep an eye out for pests. Be aware of whether or not pests are present. Roaches like to hide in dark places like in corners and under heavy things like refrigerators. Food bits can fall into these places and give the roaches both a place to live and food to eat. Food must also be stored where roaches cannot get to it.
- Request that your pest control operator use integrated pest management strategies. Select a treatment method for the particular pest that is least hazardous and most effective. For mice, place snap traps along walls and in areas where children can’t reach. Use peanut butter instead of cheese and check them daily. For cockroaches, use bait stations and insect growth regulators. Do not use toxic sprays or bombs. Bait stations work better in cracks and crevices to get rid of the bugs. However, only adults should use chemicals at home.
- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables with running water before eating. Wash and scrub all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water, which has an abrasive effect that soaking alone does not. Washing will help remove bacteria and traces of pesticides; however, not all pesticides residues can be removed by washing. You may need to peel fruits and vegetables when possible to reduce dirt, bacteria, and pesticides. Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables.
Resources for the Public:
- Purdue University Extension Entomology:
- Purdue University searchable entomology database with publications, newsletters, presentations, videos, and other insect and pest management related resources.
- What are the Potential Health Effects of Pesticides?
- A fact sheet from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation describing risk to various populations.
- Pesticides and Public Health (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
- Information about public health problems caused by pests and the role that preventive measures and pesticides may play in protecting people from these health problems.
- Bed Bugs – Get Them Out, Keep Them Out (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
- Information about bed bugs, how to avoid them, and ways to treat infestations.
Resources for Schools:
- Pesticide Use at School – Indiana’s Regulatory Requirements
- Lists Indiana’s requirements that apply to any individuals (including teachers, contractors, and volunteers) who use pesticides on school property.
- Managing Pests in Schools (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
- Information about using integrated pest management in schools.
Resources for Child Care Providers:
- Midwest Technical Resource Center
- Out of Purdue University, the Center helps you maintain safe and pest-free learning environments for children through improved pest management practices.
- Information for Child Care Providers about Pesticides/Integrated Pest Management
- A numbers of resources on safely managing a wide variety of pests, including rodents, cockroaches, and bed bugs.
- Pesticides and Their Impact on Children: Key Facts and Talking Points
- U.S. EPA publication on preventing and recognizing pesticide poisoning in children.
- Head Start Staff: What You Need to Know About Pesticide Poisoning
- U.S. EPA publication, aimed at Head Start staff, on preventing and recognizing pesticide poisoning in children.
- Safe and Healthy Child Care Centers
- Training from the University of California, Berkeley on managing major environmental hazards in child care centers.