Table of Contents

Chapter 1

How to Order


Designer Poisons: How to Protect Your Health and Home From Toxic Pesticides.

Chapter 1 - What this Book is About and How to Use It

Nature cannot be ordered about, except by obeying her. Francis Bacon (1561-1626)


The purpose of this book is to help you choose pest control methods that are safer for you, your family, your environment, pets, your neighbors, and the environment. It informs you of potential health hazards of widely available pesticide products and services. It recommends nontoxic or less toxic alternatives, which many consumers would use if they knew about them. We answer the following questions, and many others, about pesticides.

  • What products that make the air in your home toxic for several months contain cancer causing pesticides? (see pages 35, 50, 75, 113, 308).
  • What products that make the air in your home toxic for several months contain cancer causing pesticides? (see pages 35, 50, 75, 113, 308).
  • What products that make the air in your home toxic for several months contain cancer causing pesticides? (see pages 35, 50, 75, 113, 308).
  • Do home use pesticides cause cancer in humans? (see pages 72-79).
  • What "fragrance free" product is 100% toxic?(see page 249).
  • When is it safe for children and pets to play on a lawn sprayed with pesticides? (see pages 29-30).
  •  Can my children and pets be harmed by pesticides used on lawns? (see pages 309- 310).
  • What pesticide available over-the-counter has been linked to brain cancer and leukemia? (see pages 75-76, 83-84).
  • What pesticides can you buy that act like or interfere with estrogens (female hormones)? (see page 84).
  • What prescription lice shampoo contains a pesticide linked to breast cancer, brain cancer in children? (see pages 75-76).
  • What home use product labeled as "made from flowers" contains mostly other chemical pesticides? (see page 33).
  • What home use pesticide is contaminated with DDT? (see page 80).
  • What pesticide used to kill termites depletes the ozone layer? (see page 280).
  • Are pesticides containing "pine scent", "country fresh scent", or "lavender scent" safer? (see page 28).
  • Are "natural" products safer than synthetic chemical pesticides? (see pages 106, 220).
  • Aren't pesticides safe if you strictly follow the label directions? (see pages 92, 94).

This book discusses basic information about pesticides in chapters two through five. Specific information about brand name over-the-counter products for indoor, outdoor, pet, and human use, is in chapters six through nine. Chapter ten discusses commercial use pesticides applied by professional pest control operators (exterminators). The last chapter briefly discusses and recommends some changes in pesticide law and policy.

Recommendations. We recommend that you read chapters two and three before you read chapters six through ten. We realize there is a lot of information in chapters four and five on acute and chronic health effects. Our purpose was not to overwhelm, but to give you concise information about health effects of pesticides that is difficult to find in one place. You may prefer to refer back and forth to different sections. We encourage you to read all of the chapters, since useful information is dispersed throughout the book. If you do not have a lawn or a pet you can skip those chapters. Unless of course you have friends with lawns or pets, or in the future may have a lawn or a pet.

Chapter two describes what pesticides are, how they get into your body, and why children absorb more pesticides than adults. It discusses packaging, why foggers and aerosols are especially hazardous, and the problem of inert ingredients.

Chapter three discusses how to read a pesticide label, including what the warning words on the label mean. It also tells you what is not on the label that you need to know.

Chapter four discusses acute health effects of pesticides, from skin rashes to poisoning. It describes nerve-gas type pesticides, other classes of chemicals in over- the-counter products, and the health problems they can cause. It tells you what to do if you suspect a pesticide-related health problem, how to talk to your doctor, and discusses asthma and allergies related to pesticide exposure.

Chapter five is the longest chapter in the book. It discusses long-term health effects, including cancer, reproductive effects, and effects on the brain and nervous system. There is special emphasis on cancer in children related to their parents' use of pesticides in and around the home, and a discussion of breast cancer and pesticides.

Chapter six discusses indoor pests, cockroaches, ants, and fleas in particular. It tells you what nontoxic and least toxic alternatives are available and how to use them. A table listing indoor products by their brand names, specific ingredients, and chronic toxicity, concludes the chapter.

Chapter seven discusses outdoor pest problems, with an emphasis on lawn care. It tells you what nontoxic and least toxic alternatives are available for pests such as ants, cinch bugs, dandelions, and other pests. A table listing outdoor products by their brand names, specific ingredients, and chronic toxicity, concludes the chapter.

Chapter eight discusses pest problems on pets, focusing on fleas on cats and dogs. It tells you what nontoxic and least toxic alternatives are available and how to use them. A table listing pet products by their brand names, specific ingredients, and chronic toxicity, concludes the chapter.

Chapter nine discusses human pest problems, including use of insect repellents on children and adults, and treatment of lice. It recommends what products to avoid, safer alternatives, and how to use them.

Chapter ten describes products used by pest control professionals (exterminators, pest control operators) for indoor and outdoor use, including termite control. It discusses questions you should ask, and factors you should consider, before signing a contract for treatment of your home. A table listing the ingredients in commercial use pesticides with acute and chronic toxicity information concludes the chapter.

Chapter eleven gives a brief overview of pesticide law and policy regarding home use pesticides. It recommends changes that would better protect public health, especially children.

Exclusions and Qualifications

This book focuses on pesticides sold over-the-counter, and commercial use products applied by professional pest control operators (exterminators) in and around the home. It does not include cleaning products for use in bathrooms, kitchens, and general purpose cleaning, or swimming pool chemicals.

The brand name pesticides listed in the tables in chapters six through nine represent typical products available for direct sale to the public in the surveyed cities. They are not lists of all brand name home use pesticides available over-the-counter throughout the country.

It is beyond the scope of this book to include all of the potential pests found indoors, outdoors, on petspets, and on humans. We discuss only the more common ones. There are several books and publications with more comprehensive information about pest problems. We refer to these sources in the appropriate sections in the text, and list them in an appendix of sources of further information.

Over-the-counter pesticides. The information on brand name pesticides was collected by volunteers from hardware stores, nurseries, supermarkets, variety stores, pet stores, and other retail outlets in San Francisco in 1994. Additional surveys were done in 1995 in Sarasota, Florida, Metarie, Louisiana (near New Orleans), and Colma, California (near San Francisco).

Commercial use pesticides. The information on pesticide use by professional pest control operators and exterminators, was gathered by volunteers at the San Francisco county agricultural commissioner's office. They copied a full year (1992- 1993) of pesticide use reports filed by 157 commercial pest control companies licensed in the city and county. These Pesticide use Reports, required by California law, are available to the public.

Such commercial pesticide use data is not available in Florida. We were unable to find any systematic source of pesticide use by companies that do pest control for hire. We did include information obtained from interviewing pest control companies, and talking to homeowners and condominium residents about pesticide use, especially for lawn care.

Pronunciation guide. Many of our readers will not be familiar with some terms used in this book. Pronouncing them properly makes it easier for you to talk to pest control operators, your doctor, and others. There is a pronunciation guide in Appendix A on page 319. This is the author's personal system, revised after trying it out on several people unfamiliar with medical and pesticide terminology. If you come up with a better "sound bite" for a particular entry, let us know and we will consider it for inclusion in later editions. We are considering making an audio cassette for a small additional charge, in which all of the terms in the pronunciation guide are read aloud. Let us know if you think this would be useful to you.

Please contact us. We like to hear from readers who have comments about the book, or suggestions for controlling pests in nontoxic or less toxic ways. While we cannot promise to answer each inquiry individually, we do read all our mail, and share what we learn with others. We will incorporate the most helpful suggestions in future editions.

© 2002 Pesticide Education Center