Why Be Concerned about Pest Control Chemicals?

Herbicides, pesticides, and other such agents have been promoted as a victory over weeds and other pests.


Let’s recognize that your human body is a chemical reaction. Thus, the health of your body depends upon the chemicals that you put in it – either through food or the environment.

California Towhee, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye

The California Towhee feeds on insects and seeds that it finds on the ground. When these are coated with chemicals, the bird eats the chemicals.

Here’s why I’m concerned.

1) Any chemical that destroys life will be toxic for people.

2) Most pest control chemicals leave no evidence that they are present. They wait on the surfaces of dirt, plants, stones, and sidewalks. In addition, freshly applied (i.e., wet) chemicals can be easily absorbed by human contact.

3) Most of these chemicals cause a delayed reaction. That is, the chemical may take days to kill a pest.

With people, it’s more complicated. These chemicals can accumulate in body tissue, causing major illnesses decades after contact.

This is also complicated by the variability of human response to toxins. For example, children are more sensitive to toxins than adults. And some adults are more resistant than other adults. So it’s difficult to relate an illness to contact with these chemicals.

4) Cancer, birth defects, infertility, autism, and digestive disorders have been connected with commonly used pest control chemicals. For example, the increase in autism directly tracks the increased use of Glyphosate.

5) Chemical companies have used propaganda technologies developed by the cigarette industry to hide the true effects of their products. They have discredited science, published bogus reports, and prevented independent studies.

6) These chemicals are especially toxic to birds and other wildlife. Some toxins destroy an entire food chain, from pest to bird to carnivore. Thus, every environmental organization opposes the use of these chemicals.

7) The person applying these chemicals often becomes contaminated. For example, the common mist applicator releases a fog of small, invisible droplets that travel far from their source driven by air currents and diffusion. So the person using this system collects the chemical on their clothes and shoes, which ends up in their home where they (and others) experience repeated contacts with it.

8) Sometimes supporting ingredients (such as solvents and surfactants) are also toxic.

9) Outdoor pets collect these chemicals on their fur and paws. Then they can become sick when they groom themselves. Or they can contaminate the people at home.

Cooper’s Hawk, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye

A Cooper’s Hawk is more likely to catch a sick rodent because it moves slower. Then the hawk becomes sick or dies

Homeowners Consider This

1) Would you gather your family for a picnic on an area that had been treated with a pest control chemical?

If your answer to this questions is, “No,” then using these chemicals is wrong.


If a product recommends cautions, such as avoiding contact with your skin, then putting that product in places where people walk, sit, or eat is wrong.


1) Avoid using any type of pest control chemicals.

2) Know what you are using.

Check the list of ingredients by searching for info on their toxicity from independent, reliable sources. Note that the manufactures have a history of minimizing or even hiding the true toxicity of their products.

Then compare the risks with the results.

3) If you must use pest control chemicals, fence off the area and post signs telling people to keep out.

4) Never leave toxic chemicals where people can unknowingly come in contact with them.

5) Use traps for bugs and rodents. Use boiling water for weeds. And use ground covers, such as a plastic tarp or bark chips, to prevent weeds.

6) Chop weeds with a hoe, thereby returning them to the soil as mulch.

7) Find more ideas in the books listed below.

Personal Responsibility

I believe that everyone has a personal responsibility to make ethical choices.

While we have no control over what a company may choose to make, we do have control over whether we buy it.

Every purchase is thus a vote that supports continuation of a product or service.

In General

There is a growing concern about the use of pest control chemicals. Some of these chemicals have been banned by cities in the United States and by countries in Europe.


American Bird Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy, Native Gardening

Organic Consumers Association

Moms Across America

Beyond Pesticides

Common Sense Gardening Guides


Weeds: Control without Poisons

The Gardener’s Guide to Common-Sense Pest Control


Keep Your Cat Safe