Safer Pest Control Alternatives
A lot of folks ask us, “Are pesticides really safe?”
The answer, of course, is no. No product that is deigned to kill living things can ever be completely safe. That’s why the EPA and pesticide manufacturers assign signal words to pesticides, to quickly summarize their relative toxicity and hazard classes. So it’s fair to say that there’s no such thing as an absolutely “safe” pesticide.
That being said, some pesticides are less hazardous than others. For example, pesticides labeled with the CAUTION signal word have been found to be either “slightly toxic” or “essentially non-toxic.” All of the products we use fall into this hazard class, both because our customers demand it and because we just think it’s the responsible thing to do.
Also, let’s not forget that we work with these products every day, so of course we want to avoid the really dangerous stuff. We spend a lot of time researching the safest pest control methods and products available. As we discover them, we inform our customers about them, and incorporate them into our service.
Not very long ago, most of the chemicals used for pest control fell into one of three chemical classes: organochlorines (also known as chlorinated hydrocarbons), organophosphates, and carbamates. All of these chemicals were neurotoxins, and all of them were toxic to humans to some extent. Let’s briefly discuss them, just for a bit of historical context,
- Organochlorines. These chemicals included some of the earliest synthetic insecticides such as DDT, Chlordane, Aldrin, Dieldrin, and many others. They were neurotoxins, and they had the added disadvantage of accumulating in the fatty tissues of humans, birds, fish, and wildlife. They also caused serious problems for bird populations because they resulted in defects to the shells of their eggs. Most chlorinated hydrocarbons have now been banned in the United States, but a few are still legal for very limited uses. At Bugaboo Pest Control, we do not use any chlorinated hydrocarbons at all.
- Organophosphates. This group includes chemicals such as Dursban, Diazinon, DDVP (Vapona), Malathion, and many others. Like organochlorines, they exert their effect on the nervous system, but in a different way. Oganophosphates inhibit acetylcholinesterase, which is an enzyme essential to nervous system function in almost all animals. Although organophosphates are less persistent in the evironment (and in our bodies) than organochlorines, their effects are cumulative. This means that a person whose acetylcholinesterase is already depressed due to organophosphate exposure will be even more seriously affected if they are exposed again before their acetylcholinesterase levels have recovered. Some organophosphates have been banned in the United States, others have been withdrawn by their manufacturers, and others remain legal. A few can even be purchased over-the-counter. At Bugaboo Pest Control, however, we us no organophosphates at all.
- Carbamates. The carbamate group consists of chemicals derived from carbamic acid, and includes pesticides such as Ficam, Baygon, Sevin, and a few others. Like organophosphates, they killed by inhibiting synaptic acetylcholinesterase, but via a different, reversible, biochemical mechanism. They were therefore considered somewhat safer than organophosphates when they were first introduced. In the 1980’s, however, a lot of concern started being focused on the toxicity of carbamates, and most of them have been banned by the EPA or voluntarily withdrawn by their manufacturers. A few, like Sevin, are still available both to professionals and in over-the counter formulations. At Bugaboo Pest Control, we do not use any carbamates.
Safer, Earth-Friendly Pest Control Methods
Bugaboo Pest Control was founded with less-toxic, Earth-friendly scientific pest control in mind, and we’ve been at it for longer than any other pest control company in Portland or Vancouver. Like we often say, we were green long before being green was all the rage. Luckily for you, however, being green doesn’t mean sacrificing effectiveness. Here are some of the techniques and product types that we use to provide service that’s tough on pests, but easy on your home and the environment.
Non-Chemical Pest Control
Many of the pest control techniques that we use don’t involve any chemicals at all, such as:
- Inspecting. We spend an awful lot of time carefully inspecting our customers’ premises for pests and conditions conducive to pest infestation.
- Monitoring. One of the ways we reduce or eliminate pesticide use is by monitoring to make sure there’s a pest problem before treating for one. We use a variety of both active and passive monitors, such as sticky traps and pheromone traps, to detect both general pest problems and specific pest infestations.
- Exclusion. Pest exclusion basically means sealing pests out of your home or business. There are a lot of ways to do this, including sealing cracks, inpecting and repairing door sweeps, filling holes that allow rodents into buildings, and many more.
- Trapping. We utilize a wide variety of traps including humane live-traps, light traps, pheromone traps, and multiple-catch moustraps.
- Habitat Modification. We provide advice on how to make your property less appealing to pests, as well as how to correct conditions such as moisture problems, improper storage of firewood, overhanging tree limbs, and so forth.
When pesticides are needed, we select them from those which are the least toxic to humans and non-target animals. All of these products fall into the EPA’s lowest hazard class, except for a few that are so non-toxic that the EPA doesn’t even consider them to be pesticides.
The low-toxicity pesticides that we use most often include:
- Baits. Baits can be used for both rodents and many insects. They are applied with great precision in areas where pests are likely to find them, and are not toxic (even to the pests) until they are consumed.
- Diatomaceous Earth. Diatomaceous earth is the ground-up, fossilized remains of tiny, one-celled crustaceans called diatoms. It is not a poison, but rather kills insects by scratching their waxy outer covering and causing them to dehydrate.
- Borates. This refers to all insecticides which use boric acid as their active ingredient. Boric acid kills insects by ingestion, so it’s usually applied as a bait. It also is sometimes applied as a dust inside wall voids and other inaccessible areas. In that case, insects ingest it when they feed or groom themselves. It’s considered essentially non-toxic to humans and other mammals.
- Pyrethrins and Other Botanicals. Plants have been practicing natural pest control for, well, as long as there have been plants and pests. Pyrethrum is one of the most common botanical insecticides, and comes from a particular specie of chrysanthemum. Others include various mint oils, cedar extracts, citrus oil, neem, and several others. There also are synthetic versions of some of these products that have similar characteristics to the natural ones.
Totally Poison-Free Pest Control
For those who desire it, we also provide totally poison-free pest control. This service avoids the use of anything that’s considered a pesticide, relying completely on non-chemical methods and natural alternatives. For more information, please click here.
Whether you’re looking for a totally poison-free approach, or our standard earth-friendly integrated pest management system, please contact us for more information about how Bugaboo Pest Control can help solve your pest problems.