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The Risks of Using Home Insecticides

Do you use home insecticides to stamp out bugs and other tiny critters that snack on your plants? Be cautious. A new study raises concerns about the use of insecticides and other chemicals that contain an ingredient called pyrethroid — especially if you’re pregnant.

Is the use of insecticides hazardous to your health?

Insecticides containing pyrethroid took over the market in early 2000 when the Environmental Protection Agency removed older insecticides from the market because of concerns they could affect nerve and brain development in children. At the time, experts believed insecticides containing pyrethroid were safe, although it wasn’t thoroughly researched.

Home insecticides and pregnancy: What a study showed

Researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Columbia University looked at the effects of pyrethroid insecticides in a study involving 342 pregnant women. The women were equipped with air monitors to wear during their third trimester of pregnancy to measure their exposure to pyrethroid and another chemical in home insecticides called PBO.

Three out of four of the women were exposed to these chemicals during the course of the study. When researchers studied the development of their babies at age three, they found some disturbing results. The kids born to moms with the greatest exposure to pyrethroid and PBO had lower mental development scores. They estimate the kids whose moms were exposed had the equivalent of a 3 to 4 point drop in I.Q.

Home insecticides may harm more than bugs

While researchers emphasize these results are preliminary, women who are pregnant should avoid products containing pyrethroid and PBO as much as possible. Pyrethroid is not only in home insecticides, but in pet sprays, pet shampoos, gardening products and lice treatment as well. Exterminators spray insecticides containing pyrethroid to control mosquitos.

Another problem with using home products containing pyrethroid is they can worsen lung problems such as COPD and asthma. In addition, exposure to large amounts can cause lightheadedness, headache and nausea.

Pyrethroid insectides and health: The bottom line?

These studies may be preliminary, but why take a chance? Visit a natural food market and look for safer insecticide alternatives – and buy your pet and gardening products there too. Or look for recipes online to make your own insecticide using natural products – they do exist. And avoid products containing pyrthroid completely if you’re pregnant.

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