Consumers have access to countless products that magically make these problems disappear with the squirt of a bottle, but many don’t realize that those products contain chemicals that could cause their families harm if used in excess.
- Read and follow pesticide product labels. If there is ever a time to follow instructions to the full measure, handling pesticides is that time. This includes restricting access for children and pets while the treated area dries. You should also wear the protective gear indicated on the label while applying a pesticide in and around the home—often gloves and/or long sleeves/pants. Genter says it is also a good idea to change clothes immediately following application.
- Have well water tested. Municipal water sources are tightly monitored for pesticide exposures, but rural water wells can often become contaminated from pesticide-laced water runoff from surrounding farms. This situation, especially when the contamination also includes fertilizers, can be very dangerous to infants. People living in homes with private wells should have their water quality assessed frequently. The EPA recommends testing before ever using a private well and before giving well water to an infant. They also recommend annual testing for nitrates andbacteria as well asother chemicals if a problem is suspected.
”The issue is that testing for bacteria and nitrates is pretty inexpensive, but analysis for pesticides and other chemicals is quite costly and can only be done by certified labs,” adds Reponen.
- Use non-chemical methods of controlling pests. Pests exist in environments that promote their livelihood—for example, mosquitoes breed in standing water. Removing that source will help reduce the pest burden without the need for chemicals.
- Buy locally grown food. Produce is often grown thousands of miles away from the people who end up consuming it. This not only makes it hard to verify where and in what conditions your food was grown, but it also increases the likelihood that products have been added to the food or food containers to preserve the food. For example, it is common for fruit containers or even fruit itself to be sprayed with fungicides to prevent mold.
- Consider organic produce. Farms do not become organic overnight—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that farms abstain from pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use for three years prior to applying for certification as an organic farm. Once certified, the farms must provide regular documentation to show the fields are still pesticide free. Studies are inconclusive about whether organic produce is more nutritious, but choosing to purchase USDA organic produce can help reduce pesticide exposure through the foods you eat. Thoroughly washing and peeling vegetables prior to cooking can reduce ingestion of pesticide residues.