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More Is Not Always Better

2010 April 8

How many times have you seen a cockroach in your home and attempted to spray an entire can of bug killer to get rid of all cockroaches once and for all? How many times of you seen a little field mouse venture into your home and resorted to using tons of rat poison to eliminate any possible infestation from here to the end of time? How many times have you used excessive amounts of cleaners in an attempt to make things cleaner and brighter? Well, the reality is that more is not always better. In fact, excessive use of pesticides or household cleaners can be counterproductive and even put your entire family at risk.

One basic principle for using pesticides and household cleaners safely is to read the label first!  By reading the product label, you will get the necessary information to use the product properly and minimize exposure to these chemicals. Furthermore, the label provides first aid information in the event of an accidental poisoning.

While I have made the point of reading the label when using pesticide products, I wasn’t aware of the need to follow the label’s instructions with the same care when using other common soaps and household products. In fact, I recently watched a program that illustrated how excessive amounts of laundry detergent actually produced the opposite effect by leaving cloths dingy from too much soap. Excessive soap could also produce soap scum in some washing machines which, unfortunately, serves as a breeding ground for bacteria. The consumer show also stressed the need to read the instructions manual for the household appliance to maximize use and efficiency. Similar guidelines also apply when using other appliances such as dishwashers.

Therefore, emptying an entire container of pesticides will not keep the pests at bay. Good integrated pest management practices will.

So, why not start today?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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15 Responses leave one →
  1. Ladislau permalink
    April 8, 2010

    These are important informations,thank you…

  2. armansyahardanis permalink
    April 8, 2010

    Better is always people hope. Moreover the best. If I am not wrong, wherever when I saw the place, direct or indirect, there are sense of cleaner. Different with, for example, H Hotel (?). All the people hope they are perfect. But enemy always present. Is this ecosystem in the Earth ?

  3. Dr. E. Waal permalink
    April 8, 2010

    Knowing how things work is important, and lack of understanding is a primary reason for “over-treatment” in so many apects of our lives. Over-treatment with insecticides is a perfect example. Another is lawn fertilizing and watering. And my pet peeve; co-workers who over-adjust a thermostat way beyond the desired temperature in the misbelief that the room temperature will change more quickly. Understanding is the key. As Lina Younes correctly points out, “read the label.” My mantra – Science rules, science rules, … and knowledge is power, knowledge is power … NOTE TO EPA: Please make rules based on sound science, and deep knowledge as opposed to emotion and flavor of the month reactions.

  4. Lina-EPA permalink*
    April 8, 2010

    Dr. Waal,
    Well said. Science rules and knowledge is power. Like that. All too often we overlook reading the label and we ignore the adverse impacts on human health AND the environment. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Al Bannet permalink
    April 8, 2010

    So many people are careless with their food scraps, and then resort to toxic chemicals to kill the pests, and sometimes poison themsleves. But if there is zero food scraps there will be zero pests, except for mosquitos, for whom YOU are the food, requiring tight screens and the elimination of stagnant water.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    April 8, 2010

    By all means see the Acropolis, dine in the Plaka, and enjoy even some of the street vendors with their Greek delights.

  7. Lina-EPA permalink*
    April 9, 2010

    Al,
    Zero food scraps? Sounds like a nice goal, but might be someone irrealistic. Composting is a good solution (I’ll be blogging about that in the near future) but since you can’t recycle meats and some other food products, there will always be some food waste. Have any solutions?

  8. Al Bannet permalink
    April 11, 2010

    I didn’t mean to omit composting. That is certainly a best practice. But whatever anyone does or does not do, the instinct to grow will confound all environmental progress, unless and until people learn to think before they act, which in economic terms is virtually never, especially when our President pledges to “get this economy back on tracck and growing again”.

  9. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    April 11, 2010

    Reading the label is the most critical thing you can do before using pesticides and cleaners. Too much use of these products is costly, unproductive, and dangerous. But at the same time, it should be remembered that when people end their schooling they usually are only able to read 3 or 4 grades below where they finished at. So label literacy and printing it so most people can understand it are also important. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  10. Jenny_ WLP permalink
    April 12, 2010

    This is a great thing to note. Before reading this blog I was one of those people who always thought more was better. For example last night I wanted to wash my bed sheets, wanting them to be as clean as possible I loaded up on the laundry detergent almost putting in double the recommended amount. Now looking at the directions it specifically says do not use more than recommended. The thought of soap scum building up in my washing machine will keep me from making this mistake in the future. This blog got me thinking that we live in a very lucky country. Laws that require companies to put instruction labels on chemicals is something our country takes for granted. Unlike other parts of the World, our government has put in place laws that are fully for our citizen’s safety. These laws make companies that produce cleaning products to create labels that proclaim how to safely use the product. It is pure laziness that prevents US citizens from not using these products correctly.

  11. Lina-EPA permalink*
    April 12, 2010

    Michael,
    Label literacy is a big factor, but, unfortunately, I think that too many people have the bad habit of simply not reading the label or ignoring the basic guidelines.

  12. Lina-EPA permalink*
    April 12, 2010

    Hi, Jenny

    Frankly, the consumer report I saw on morning TV really motivated me to write the blog. And I had the same reaction to the thought of the soap scum. In fact, I noticed the build-up in my dishwater and promptly proceeded to clean it. Wonder how long it had been there and I hadn’t noticed it!

  13. Anonymous permalink
    April 26, 2010

    Sure, you’ll get more authentic results with a Real Guitarist … but not always better results.

  14. Robert permalink
    July 9, 2010

    Yes, make sure you read the label. Some pesticides are an instant kill, and some are meant to be placed around the home as a preventative measure.

  15. bobby permalink
    February 24, 2011

    Very informative. Keep sharing wonderful articles as such.

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