Pesticides: what to watch out for

pesticide, insecticide, pest control products, diy pest control

Pesticide poisoning has increased over the last few years, making it even more important to exercise great care when using DIY products.

by Nicole Maritz

Generally speaking, most people I know try and prevent unwanted house guests from entering their homes by using pest control products. I know when I fall victim to a pest infestation, I really try and get rid of any critter that might even just be thinking of becoming a permanent resident of my home.

I have even pulled together all of my battle equipment; this being anything from DIY pesticides and pest control products which I have acquired from the local supermarket to the occasional “boereraat” such as applying peppermint oil to my skin to repel the mozzies and mixing together a boric acid solution to keep cockroaches away.

I can really give myself an ‘A’ for effort in trying to keep my home pest-free. But how safe is it really to use pesticides?

Pesticide-related poisonings have increased over the last couple of years and it has been reported that the rise in pesticide-related symptoms has corresponded with the availability of illegal pesticides on the streets, such as made available through street hawkers. These chemicals have been found being sold in unlabeled plastic bags or bottles to fight pest problems such as cockroach or rodent infestations; problems which are especially prominent in areas with poor sanitation.

Not only is the above fact of huge concern, but what is especially worrying is that children might get hold of pesticides and accidentally ingest these chemicals. Toddlers love to explore and use their mouths to test anything of interest. Considering the areas that you might think of placing the bait (such as on the floor) it might pose a serious health risk in your home. It has even been reported that children have mistaken mothballs for sweets.

Furthermore, these dangers are not only limited to pesticides, but cleaning substances can pose dangers too. According to a news article on Gulf News, a housewife in Saudi Arabia suffered from third degree burns when a cleaning chemical that was placed on top of her fridge fell onto her when she opened the door. Ironically, this product was placed on refrigerator to keep it out of reach of her son.

Types of pesticides and the symptoms they may cause:

  • Organophosphate: these insecticides were developed during the second world war and are known to affect the nervous system. This toxic chemical can cause headaches, nausea and trembling. In children, exposure can cause impaired short term memory, impaired mental development, and emotional problems.
  • Carbamate: this pesticide is similar to organophosphates, but has a shorter duration of action.
  • Organochlorine insecticides: The most well-known organochlorine pesticide is DDT (Dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane) which was banned in the 1970’s due to the damage it caused to wildlife. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness and even various types of cancer and Parkinson’s disease if exposure occurs over long periods of time.
  • Pyrethroid pesticides are synthetic chemical insecticides and work by altering the nervous system. They are similar to pyretherins (natural pesticides) which originate from chrysanthemum flowers. While not as harmful as the other pesticides mentioned above, they can cause dermatitis and asthma-like reactions, as well as dizziness, nasal stuffiness, in-coordination etc.

Important points to keep in mind:

  • Always make sure to read the label thoroughly before buying or using the pest control product.
  • Check that the product has been thoroughly tested and contains warning labels.
  • If you have any doubts about using the pesticide, contact the manufacturer directly.
  • Make sure to not place pesticides in reach of children or pets, and be careful to store them in areas where they are difficult for children to reach. Be sure to fit childproof locks where pesticides are stored in low cupboards.
  • Should you decide to use a pesticide, make sure to wear protective clothing and check that you are making use of the correct equipment with which to apply the product. Be sure to read the instructions on how to properly apply the product and check the safety measures involved.
  • After making use of pesticides, make sure to properly store and lock it away and thoroughly wash your hands.
  • Should the insecticide chemical accidentally come into contact with skin, be ingested or inhaled, one should seek urgent medical attention.
  • Dispose of pesticide containers responsibly: be sure to triple rinse containers before placing them into the trash to ensure the chemicals do not harm the environment or anyone that it might come into contact with. It is also a good idea to cut up containers to prevent the possibility re-use.

It is always best to follow the above pointers, or if you are hesitant to try the chemical route try using organic insecticides and home remedies. In the case of an infestation, one can make use of DIY pesticides, although for an infestation on a larger scale, it is recommended to call in the Rentokil experts who are trained on how to use and apply pesticides in a way that takes your family’s health and safety into consideration.


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