Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mothballs and other toxic pesticides

When it comes to synthetic pesticides, the less you use the better, and best is using none at all. Labels can't be relied on for safe usage advice. Take mothballs.

At the March 2010 meeting of the American Chemical Society, Linda Hall, a scientist with the California Environmental Protection Agency, presented a new study about the misleading nature of pesticide labels. She was focusing on mothball products and noted that, while companies tell you the minimum amount yper square footage ou should use for their products to be effective, they are loathe to tell you how much is too much. No maximum number of mothballs is noted.

The labeling info gap, Hall said, leads people to think that if a little bit is good, a lot is EVEN BETTER! But this is clearly not a good idea when it comes to hazardous ingredients in mothballs such as carcinogenic
, and para-dichlorobenzene (pDCB; the latter has been found in extremely high levels in homes across California, as well as the rest of the country, Hall reported.

Labels also fail to provide safety information about the need to air out mothballed clothes before wearing them. This should be done, just as with conventionally drycleaned clothes, which release vapors of toxic perchloroethylene.

For less toxic pest control, leave mothballs and insecticides on the store shelf, and find safer ways to keep bugs away. Synthetic pesticides are hazardous in any quantity and can trigger asthma and allergic reactions, and they've been linked to childhood leukemia, Parkinson's disease, autism, and a wide array of other chronic illnesses. A recent study at Stanford University suggested that pesticides can interfere with the way your body produces insulin, possibly leading to type 2 diabetes).

Keep moths away from your clothes by cleaning them before putting them away, and sealing them in airtight containers. If a few moths do happen in, put clothes in plastic bags and shove them in the deep freeze for three days to kill eggs, or air them out in sunlight. Here are more non-chemical mothproofing tips.

For general pest control, boric acid powder and diatomaceous earth are two less toxic products that work by rubbing off a bug's waxy outer shell. They don't have any impact on humans unless directly ingested. For more tips, check out

Bio-Integral Resource Center
Beyond Pesticides
UC-Davis Integrated Pest Management Program

To get all the daily green living info you need in one handy place, see the new book by Greenerpenny editor Mindy Pennybacker: Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple Everyday Choices. The book includes Choose It/Lose It product and ingredients lists and other tips for your daily food, water, household cleaning/energy/deco, personal care, apparel & transportation.

To stay on top of environmental health and green product news, please subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter in the sub box on our homepage at

And, if you have other ideas about living with less, please leave us a comment below.

--by Emily Main


tyroneb said...

What must be must be. ............................................................

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I'll try the boric acid method. It's getting buggy ova here!

GreenFemme said...

Thanks for trying boric acid, do be sure to keep out of reach of children & pets! Plse let us know how it works for you.