You thought pesticides were only something you sprayed on your lawn to prevent weeds or used to kill insects and mice, but it may also show up in things you use every day, like household cleaners and hand soap.
“Pesticides were developed to prevent disease and kill pests [rats, mice, insects, fungi, mold, bacteria, viruses, etc.] that may harm us,” says Barb Anderson, Patient Care Manager-Infection Prevention with the Knoxville Hospital & Clinics. “But there are health-related risks associated with their use and exposure; and dangers if not handled properly according to the instructions on the product label. Most people are surprised to learn that pesticides are lurking in many products in their homes.”
- Antibacterial hand soap and hand sanitizers: These products contain an antimicrobial pesticide known as triclosan, which works by killing bacteria. However, it kills both the bad and potentially good bacteria present on your hands. Triclosan can be absorbed by your body through the skin and has been linked to endocrine disruption and antibiotic resistance.
- Household cleaning products: Read the label. If it sanitizes, disinfects, cuts grease, or kills mold and mildew, it usually contains a pesticide. Most of these products contain bacteria-killing quaternary ammonium compounds. The alternative to using these products is simple. Soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide diluted with water work well to clean.
- Kitchen towels, cutting boards and sponges: Some household towels, cutting boards and sponges are “specially treated for antimicrobial protection.” This means they may contain bacteriostats, pesticides that make it hard for bacteria to grow. Really, no one wants pesticides associated with their dinnerware or kitchen counter.
- Cotton balls, swabs and pads: They appear snowy white (are usually not cotton), but are often heavily treated with chemicals, including pesticides.
- Air fresheners: Plug-ins/solid air fresheners/deodorizers, scented oils/candles/sprays, and air sprays may contain pesticides and other nasty chemicals you don’t want to be inhaling. Toxic chemicals have even been found in products claiming to be “All-Natural” or “Unscented.” There are natural ways to keep our homes smelling fresh. Try a bouquet of fresh flowers or open a box of baking soda to absorb any unpleasant odors.
“Keep in mind that scientists do not yet have a clear understanding of the chronic health effects of pesticide exposures, but there is a growing body of research that suggests chemicals in everyday products may put us at risk for health problems.” said Anderson. “If you can eliminate or minimize exposure to pesticides in your home, you know you are reducing health risks within that environment.”
If a product label claims to kill, control, repel, mitigate or reduce a pest, it is a pesticide regulated ty the U.S. EPA. See the list of pesticides on the Tracking Network.