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Banned Pesticide Puts Children at Risk

The old, familiar household pesticide, Dursban, which has been recommended for 50 years to battle a wide range of household bugs, including termites, has been phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency. Why? Although the EPA says that the pesticide wasn't causing a severe public health crisis, the phase-out is being conducted because the potential health risk to children is high enough to justify getting rid of Dursban, which is also known as chlorpyrifos.

Exposure to the Dursban family of pesticides, can cause neurological effects, and create a special hazard to children, according to the EPA.

Consumers need not worry about contamination of their home from Dursban, according to EPA, as long as it was properly applied using label directions.

Many other pesticides are available for termite use, including: permethrin, cypermethrin, imidacloprid, fipronil, bifenthrin, esfenvalerate, deltamethrin, and cyfluthrin. These complex-sounding names may mean little to you, but they will be familiar to a professional pest control operator. There are other opions available today for treating termites, as well. In recent years insecticides have been replaced by safer termite bait systems. Be sure to ask your pest control operator if the bait approach would be appropriate for your situation.

Before hiring a pest control company, take the following steps:

  • Insist on seeing the company's up-to-date license.
  • Get pest inspections and estimates from more than one company.
  • Get a list of local references from each company, and call them.
  • Ask about alternate methods for treating the infestation.
  • Read, and be sure you understand the contract, before signing.
  • Insist on seeing the label for the product they intend to use.
  • Get a receipt for the service.
  • Ask for detailed safety information about the product that will be used.
Was There An Earlier Dursban Treatment?

When it was used for termites, Dursban was injected into the soil beneath the home, usually by drilling holes and pumping it directly into foundation. The EPA says to look for obvious, major structural flaws, such as large cracks in the foundation or basement near the treated soil. Do these cracks leak water? Also, if you use your basement as a living area or bedroom, your risk of exposure may be higher.

If you feel you should have your house tested, have a qualified laboratory collect and analyze air supplies. To locate a laboratory in your area, call the American Industrial Hygiene Association at (703) 849-8888, or visit their website at:

If you have leftover Dursban-type products that you want to dispose of, contact your state or local hazardous waste disposal program or the local solid waste collection service for information on proper disposal methods. This often requires taking your toxic waste to a selected collection location where it can be handled carefully to prevent environmental contamination.

Keep in mind: Your AHA membership gives you access to reputable pest control operators in your area. It's a good place to begin your search for a qualified pest control professional.

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