American Homeowners Association Membership  
American Homeowners Association



EPA Targets Pesticide for Risks to Children

The most common household pesticide will soon be off the shelves at your local hardware store.

The most common household pesticide will soon be off the shelves at your local hardware store. EPA recently announced the phaseout of Dursban, a common lawn and home pesticide used for a wide range of bugs, including termites, as well as agricultural food uses. Although the pesticide is not causing a severe public health crisis, EPA is phasing it out to provide a bigger margin of safety for children from possible neurological effects.�

Consumers need not worry about contamination of their home from Dursban, according to EPA, as long as it was properly applied using label directions.� But the potential health risk to children is high enough to justify getting rid of Dursban, also known as chlorpyrifos, as long as alternatives are available.�

"Chlorpyrifos is part of a class of older, riskier pesticides, some going back 50 years. Exposure to these kinds of pesticides can cause neurological effects. Now that we have completed the most extensive evaluation ever conducted on the potential health hazards from a pesticide, it is clear that the time has come to take action to protect our children from exposure to this chemical," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner.

Whenever consulting with a professional pest control operator, be sure to take the time to investigate your options. Besides chlorpyrifos, many other pesticides are available for termite use, including: permethrin, cypermethrin, imidacloprid, fipronil, bifenthrin, esfenvalerate, deltamethrin, and cyfluthrin. In addition to stopping termites in their tracks with insecticide, pest control operators have used bait systems in recent years to reduce insecticide use and increase worker and homeowner safety.

Here are some steps to consider in dealing with pest control operators:

  • Ask to see the company's license.

  • Get inspections and estimates from more than one company.

  • Ask for a list of local references, and call them.

  • Make sure you read and understand the contract, before you sign it.

  • Get a receipt for the service.

  • Ask for detailed safety information and get any health concerns regarding your family addressed.

  • Ask to see the label for the product they intend to use.

EPA also does not recommend running out and getting a laboratory to test your home for Dursban contamination, not unless you suspect it was misapplied or misused. When used for termites, Dursban is injected into the soil beneath the home, usually by drilling holes and pumping it directly into foundation. 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 decide to have your house tested, make sure that the results are reliable by having 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:

Although Dursban is being phased out, you won't be arrested for purchasing or using chlorpyrifos products. If you choose to use these products, however, always read and follow the label precautions and directions carefully, as you should for any pesticide. If you want to get rid of any chlorpyrifos products, contact your state or local hazardous waste disposal program or the local solid waste collection service for information on proper disposal.

Sources used to create this article include the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency.