Keep Bad Bugs At Bay

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By Lina Younes
During the summer months, we enjoy outdoor activities with family and friends. We actively seek opportunities to have fun in open areas. Whether it’s gardening in our backyard, swimming at the local pool, or taking a stroll at a nearby park, we will likely encounter some small creatures that are even more active than us during this time of year. What creatures am I referring to exactly? Bad bugs, those that feast on humans and animals and may spread diseases. Whether they are ticks, fleas, or mosquitoes, you should take simple steps to keep these bugs at a distance to avoid getting bitten.

In the case of mosquitoes, there is one thing you should do around the home to eliminate mosquito habitats. Get rid of standing water!  Mosquitoes need still water to lay their eggs and develop. In fact three stages of their live cycle occur in water! So without water, they cannot grow and multiply! Look around your home to find objects where water can accumulate, such as buckets, plastic toys, bird baths, wading pools even potted plant trays. If you have a bird bath in your back yard, clean it frequently. Don’t let the water rest for more than 3 days. Remember, mosquitoes only need a very small quantity of water to lay their eggs and thrive.

As a virtual “mosquito magnet,” I know that during the summer I have to stock up on insect repellents as much as sunscreen! Given the fact that mosquitoes find me anywhere I go, I have to apply insect repellents  frequently to avoid being bitten. As with any type of pesticide and insect repellent, you should read the label first and follow the instructions carefully to protect your family and stay safe.

If you are travelling in the U.S. or abroad, visit the CDC website for any travel advisories with destination-specific information for any outbreaks or other health-related issues. And especially if you are traveling, don’t bring some unwanted hitchhiking guests like bedbugs back home! While bed bugs do not transmit diseases, they are definitely an annoyance. So follow some tips to keep them at bay.

Do you have any tips you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Acronym Soup…FIFRA, hold the DDT

By Shawn Henderson

Recently a friend introduced me to a website called Reddit. For those who are unfamiliar with Reddit, it’s basically a forum message board on steroids. Redditors can post news articles, images, links, etc. in all different topic areas. Trust me; you can spend hours looking through the different stories and images many of which are amusing at times. Several days ago I was perusing one of the sections and ran across the picture below, which appears to be from a 1950’s magazine article. Ah yes the 1950’s, sock hops, soda fountains, drive-in movies… and DDT? I poked around a little more and found several You-Tube videos of DDT being applied to swimming pools with kids still in them and even one of a gentleman spraying DDT on a carrot and then proceeding to eat it portraying its relative safety. Needless to say we have learned a lot since the 50s.

DDT

EPA is responsible for regulating pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The beginnings of FIFRA actually date way back to a 1910 pesticide control law, with FIFRA itself being passed in 1947. In its earliest incarnation FIFRA was mostly concerned with labeling to ensure that folks were getting actual pesticides like DDT and not watered down ineffective products.

In 1972 FIFRA was re-written when it was amended by the Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act (FEPCA) and has been amended numerous times since 1972, including some significant amendments in the form of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996. In its current form, FIFRA mandates that EPA regulate the use and sale of pesticides to protect human health and preserve the environment. Under FIFRA, EPA is specifically authorized to: (1) strengthen the registration process by shifting the burden of proof to the chemical manufacturer, (2) enforce compliance against banned and unregistered products, and (3) promulgate a regulatory framework missing from the original law. You can learn more about EPA’s role with FIFRA at EPA’s Pesticide website.ddt3

Much has changed since the 1950s. DDT has been classified as a probable human carcinogen and has been found to be persistent in the environment. It is one chemical in a suite of pesticides that we look for when analyzing samples of water quality. In my role as EPA Region 7’s STORET (Water Quality Storage and Retrieval System), I get a chance to see all of the water quality data for the Region, and thankfully, we have noticed a downward trend in DDT concentrations over the years, especially in fish tissue. USGS’s National Water Quality Assessment Program has found the same thing.  However, the picture above should serve as a constant reminder of the need to continue to monitor for chemicals in our environment and study their relationship with human health.  Something we think of as great today, might not be so good thirty years from now.

 

Shawn Henderson is an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch of the Environmental Services Division. He is a part of the Aqua Team, and conducts water quality sampling around the Region’s four states.  He has a Computer Science degree from Park University and helped to develop the Region’s KCWaterBug app and kcwaters.org.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Battling Bugs In Our Neighborhood Garden

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Amy Miller

The yellow wormy things are fun to smush. They are easy to spot on the underside of leaves and you know you are protecting your bean plant every time you eviscerate one. After an hour in the scorching sun, though, you realize you may never find all the 1-millimeter larvae hiding in your bounty. And after two years of head to head battle with Mexican bean beetles, I personally was ready to consult the online experts.

Our growing season in New England is short. Very short. So if a plant is decimated, we have little chance to make it up. And I have learned that the bean beetle, native to southern Mexico, is particularly pesky in the east, where it thrives in the significant rainfall.

My assignment in the garden my family shares with three other neighbors was to find an organic and effective way (not an oxymoron, we still believe) to eradicate the Mexican bean bugs as well as equally destructive squash bugs.

For two years in a row, while our red peppers, lettuce, sage, and lemon basil blossomed, the ever-so-prolific pole beans and oh-so-easy zucchini plants have become skeletal victims of insect infestations.

The squash bugs, even more evil-looking than the bean bugs, start as clusters of tiny red eggs and turn into ugly gray creatures. We have tried to control them through a duck tape removal system. It’s quite lovely – not – to see eggs and bugs clustered frantically on duct tape.

Okay, so what do the virtual masses advise?

Bad news. For both pesky insects, the organic method most often recommended we have already tried: pick the darn things off. There was also the suggestion to cover the plants until they are pushing to be freed. By that time the plants will be well enough established the veggies might outlive the onslaught.

But there are other suggestions:

  • Introduce natural predatory insects or birds or bats. Nectar plants will encourage predatory wasps, a bird bath will welcome insect-eating birds, and a bat house will let bats know they are welcome.
  • Spray the leaves with soapy water or oil, both natural insecticides that will smother the bugs. These must be reapplied repeatedly during the season.
  • Surround or infiltrate your garden with mint or other strongly-scented herbs, marigolds or other plants the bugs are apt to avoid.
  • At the end of the season, pull out the plants and shake them over a wheelbarrow of hot, soapy water to minimize the number that hang out over the winter, ready to attack again next spring.

Read more EPA information on organic farming.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, eight chickens, dusky conure, chicken-eating dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Spring Brings Many Things

By Lina Younes

As temperatures start to warm up during the early spring months, we begin to see flowers blooming and animals awakening from their winter slumber. Yet, there are some things that spring often brings that we don’t eagerly welcome. Bugs. No, I’m not talking about beneficial bugs like lady bugs, bees or butterflies, but household pests.

Recently, I had an ant infestation on the kitchen floor. I resisted the temptation of getting a can of bug spray and emptying it in my kitchen. I searched for the source of the infestation. Voila! I had left some dog food overnight in the dog’s bowl and the ants were having a party! So, I clean the bowls and the entire area and the ants decided to party somewhere else. It was simple.

The basic principles of integrated pest management consist of not providing any food, water or shelter to pests. If the pests don’t find anything that attracts them to your home or creates a cozy environment for them, they will essentially search for more inviting surroundings. So, what are some basic tips to prevent bugs and household pests for setting up shop in your home? Here are some suggestions:

  • Cleanliness is a great bug and pest deterrent.
  • Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink over night.
  • Don’t leave crumbs and spills on the table or floor. They only serve as bug magnets while you are away.
  • Repair leaks. Don’t let water accumulate around the kitchen, bathroom or flower pots.
  • Clear the clutter of newspapers, bags, and boxes. Clutter becomes a very cozy surrounding for unwanted pests.

If in spite of your best efforts household pests get into your home, select pesticides for the right pest and follow the instructions on the label closely. By following integrated pest management techniques, you’ll be able to have a healthier home for you and your family. Don’t send pests an open invitation unknowingly.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Protecting the Nation from Dangerous, Illegal Pesticides: What Consumers Should Know

By Marcia Anderson

This month EPA Region 2 is conducting nationwide training for state and federal inspectors and for Customs and Border Protection Officers on how to distinguish between legal and illegal pesticides. This effort is to keep dangerous, illegal pesticide products from entering the United States and reaching consumers. Despite all of our efforts, our borders and ports are extensive and sometimes lethal products do slip in. Here is what consumers should know:

By definition, pesticides are designed to kill. If the label says that it kills, destroys, mitigates or repels any pest (including microbes), it is a pesticide. (With the exception of products used exclusively in or on the human body.)

Under federal pesticides law, all pesticide products sold in the U.S. must be registered with the EPA. Before a pesticide product is registered, the producer of the product must provide data from tests done according to EPA guidelines to ensure that the product does not make people sick, when directions on the label are followed. If a product is not registered, the EPA cannot be certain of the toxicity and efficacy of the product. Illegal products have not been tested and their labels have not been reviewed for use directions and safety warnings. Second, illegal pesticides may contain unknown ingredients and may be harmful to people and/or the environment, and may be banned for use in the United States.

Consumers should pay close attention to the pesticides that they use in and around their homes. These illegal pesticides can easily make their way into New York City stores and markets. An easy way to tell if a product is likely to be legal: Its label must be in English. Labels can be bilingual, but English must be one of the languages. Second, it must have an EPA Registration or Establishment Number clearly on the front panel of the label. If you see a dead bug illustration, if the product is in another language, and you do not see EPA numbers, take a photo of the product, jot down the address where you found it and contact your EPA regional pesticides office.

Beware! Four of the most dangerous pesticides sold on the streets:

  1. Tres Pasitos (“Three Little Steps”) is a rodent poison produced in the Dominican Republic or Mexico. Swallowing even a very small amount of Tres Pasitos can be dangerous, especially to children, and can cause vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, and death due to paralysis of the nervous system.  The active ingredient: Aldicarb, is not approved for use as a household pesticide in the U.S. because of its toxic effects on people and pets.
  2. “Cat be Unemployed” is a rodenticide from China. The active ingredient is brodifacoum, the most lethal of the second generation anticoagulants.  It is classified as extremely toxic, and the illegal product has 60 times more concentrated active ingredient than the maximum allowable in any registered U.S. product! It is highly lethal to children and pets. Just by touching it, (dermal exposure) it will easily penetrate intact skin.
  3. Insecticide chalk, also known as “Miraculous Chalk” or “Chinese Chalk” is sold in small stores or on the street for about $1 and looks like regular school or play chalk. Exposure to Deltamethrin, the active ingredient, can cause vomiting, stomach pains, convulsions, tremors, coma and death due to respiratory failure.
  4. Chinese Rodenticide containing Tetramethylenedisulfotetramine (TETS) is a highly lethal neurotoxic rodenticide. TETS is an odorless, tasteless, white powder that is potentially many times more toxic to humans than potassium cyanide and strychnine.  TETS exposure can cause seizures, coma, blindness and death.  Severe poisonings are usually fatal within three to 13 hours after consumption.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Proper Cleaning Prevents Poisonings

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By Lina Younes

Among the fondest memories of my childhood was the time that I spent at my grandmother’s home in Old San Juan. I loved walking through the city with such a rich history and unique architecture. Every time I visit the Island, I take a stroll through the old city and memory lane.

I remember one day, I must have been around 9 or 10. I attempted to help my grandmother in cleaning around the house. I wanted to make her proud of my efforts. So I started mixing some of the cleaning products under the misguided notion that “more is better.”  To this date, I still have a very vivid image of my cleaning experiment. I remember one of the liquid cleaners was a dark amber color that when you diluted it in water it would become white. The other was some sort of clear liquid. However, when I made my cleaning concoction, it turned into a bright red! I quickly flushed the cleaning potion down the toilet. It was a good thing that it didn’t explode, but who knows what chemical reaction occurred! I guess I will never find out, but that leads me to the real subject of this blog entry: how to prevent accidental poisonings and exposures to chemicals. The issue is very timely given that we are celebrating National Poison Prevention Week.

Here are some tips to prevent accidental poisonings:

  • At EPA we stress the fact that “the label is the law.” Read labels carefully and follow instructions when using household cleaning products and pesticides.
  • As I learned from my experience decades ago, mixing products will not make your house cleaner. In fact, mixing cleaning household cleaners and pesticides can be dangerous.
  • Always keep cleaning products away from children’s reach. If you are in the process of cleaning and you get a phone call or someone knocks on the door, don’t keep the cleaning products unattended. That can be an accidental poisoning waiting to happen.
  • Since most poisonings occur in the home, make sure that you household cleaners and pesticides are properly stored. We even have a checklist to help you in a room-by-room inspection to ensure safety.

So, if in spite of your best efforts, someone in your home becomes accidentally exposed to a toxic chemical, please call the National Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222. There are English and Spanish-speaking operators available round the clock anywhere in the United States, including Puerto Rico.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Spring Pigeon Roosting Season is Fast Approaching: Humane Ways to Minimize Pigeon Damage and Risks

By Marcia Anderson

Pigeons in NYCPigeons, pigeons, everywhere. They are an integral part of New York City living, as common as yellow cabs and street vendors. Getting rid of all the pigeons is unrealistic and on the positive side, these birds perform valuable services in removing food waste and/or eating harmful insects. But urban pigeon problems can range from excessive noise to large quantities of excrement deposited on sidewalks, cars, and buildings.

When they roost in an area, pigeons leave behind feathers and nesting material, fleas and bird mites, and of course, most of all, they leave lots of droppings. Pigeon droppings are not only unsightly, they are also highly caustic and can wear down stone, degrade marble statues and building materials, corrode metal and car paint, and potentially threaten structural integrity. For example, pigeon excrement on gas station canopies can clog downspouts leading to their collapse during rainfall. The droppings are also unsanitary; they are high in nitrogen, and can grow fungus or bacteria. People can inhale the fungal spores and contract the lung disease histoplasmosis. Pigeons also carry salmonella, cryptococcosis, and other diseases.

If pigeons are a nuisance on your building here are a few tips to try:

Exclusion: A variety of products are available to prevent birds from loafing on ledges.

  • Inspect for nests, and remove them every two weeks. Focus on keeping pigeons out of buildings and other spaces.
  • Screen all soffit vents and other potential entry points with rust-proof wire mesh.
  • Keep pigeons off ledges by covering them with a sloping piece of plastic or sheet metal. The bird slope is a humane method to discourage roosting of birds on buildings and ledges. As the name suggests, the triangular-shaped item made of heavy plastic attaches to gutters or ledges with the slope facing outward. The bird slope leaves birds without any way to roost or land on the building.
  • Nonelectric products include spikes, coils, and wires. They are easily installed and have a high rate of success. Bird spikes are placed on building ledges and gutters with the spikes spaced closely together leaving birds with no place to roost or land. They are made of heavy plastic, resemble toothpicks and work on flat or curved surfaces. This device is also a humane way to prevent roosting pigeons.
  • Electric products employ nonlethal electric pulses to discourage birds from roosting. These devices may be powered through plugging the charger into an electrical outlet or by solar panels that charge a battery.
  • Light Mylar streamers and raptor silhouettes move easily in the wind and temporarily scare off birds. However, pigeons can quickly grow accustomed to them.
Habitat Modification: The best way to control pigeon populations is through the removal of food, water and roosting sites.

Solutions that either don’t work or are potentially dangerous to non-target wildlife:

  • Loud noises are more likely to annoy neighbors than pigeons. City birds are used to city noises and don’t seem to startle easily.
  • Ultrasonic noises: ultrasonic sound waves bounce off objects, creating spots where pigeons can avoid the sound, plus they may damage the hearing of cats and dogs.
  • Pigeon poisons and chemical repellents are available, but they can kill or sicken other birds or animals.
  • Sticky repellents are not recommended. Other birds may come into contact with the repellent, which may impair their ability to fly or stay warm if the product comes into contact with their feathers.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

More Is Definitely Not Better

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By Lina Younes

Recently, I was looking for something in my garage and I noticed that there was evidence of rodents.  While I didn’t actually see or hear any mice scurrying around at the time, it was evident that they had been chewing on some objects and had left their feces as well. Although I have always insisted in practicing integrated pest management techniques at home (provide no food, water or shelter to pests), I noticed that in my garage I was violating one of the basic tenants of IPM: there was too much clutter!

So when I came back in house, I told my family about the rodent problem. My youngest immediately said: “Mom, that’s easy. Take one of those cans. Spray it all over the place because more is better!” I was horrified that she even thought that “more is better.” While I took the opportunity to tell her about the proper use of products to eliminate rodents and other pests, I recognized the fact that many of us make the same mistake when we see a pest in the house. How many times haven’t we emptied a whole can of bug spray when we see a cockroach venture into our home? Have we even made sure that we are using the right type of pesticide to eliminate the right type of pest?

Did you know that the misuse of pesticides can lead to accidental poisonings? Did you know that the majority of these accidental poisonings occur in the home and are 100 percent preventable? That’s why EPA and its federal partners are joining forces to increase awareness of the dangers of poisoning during National Poison Prevention Week, March 17-23. Furthermore, EPA has taken regulatory steps to further prevent poisonings from rodent control products by moving to ban those products that don’t comply with the Agency’s stricter safety measures. EPA encourages residential consumers to use only mouse and rat products that meet EPA’s safety standards. These products are effective, affordable and widely available at retail stores. For a complete list of these products, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/mice-and-rats/rodent-bait-station.html.

Here are some simple tips to prevent accidental poisonings:

  • Keep pest control products and household cleaners out of children’s reach.
  • Read the label before using a pest control or household cleaning product.
  • Don’t use illegal pesticides no matter how cheap they are. They are extremely toxic and dangerous.
  • To protect children and pets from exposure to mouse and rat poison, use products with a tamper-resistant bait station.
  • In the event of an accidental poisoning, call the toll free Poison Help line 1-800-222-1222 which is staffed around the clock. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

For additional information on the safe use of pest control products, visit our new Website. Together we may prevent accidental poisonings in the home.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Partnering to Improve Farmworker Pesticide Safety

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By Ashley Nelsen

Image of a family at home.Pesticides play an important role in providing us the variety of fruits and vegetables that we have come to expect. It’s my office’s job to ensure that pesticides do their job in the field and don’t pose unnecessary health risks to people. When studies showed that children of farmworkers are exposed to pesticide residues found in their homes, a longstanding partnership between the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) and the EPA went into action.

The product of this partnership is Project LEAF (Limiting Exposure Around Families) and its training materials. Project LEAF was designed to educate farmworkers and their families on the hazards, prevention and mitigation of take-home pesticide exposure. Carefully crafted messages throughout the training and the training materials are designed to create permanent behavior change, such as laundering family clothing separate from work clothing, thus reducing pesticide residue within the home.

Educating farmworkers, their families and other environmental justice communities on pesticide safety poses unique challenges. America’s farmworkers often migrate with the ebb and flow of the seasons, making it difficult to locate them for safety training. Farmworkers today are predominantly Hispanic and often struggle with low literacy. Therefore, training and supporting materials such as brochures, pocket foldout cards, posters, magnets and public service announcements were designed to be bilingual, culturally sensitive, and low literacy.

In addition to developing the training and its supporting materials, AFOP delivers free Project LEAF training throughout the country. They are one of very few organizations capable of reaching the migrant farmworker population, cultivating the important relationship between farmers and growers, and assisting in locating important resources such as clinics, agricultural extension and churches for farmworkers.

The partnership between the EPA and AFOP has allowed the EPA to cost effectively access AFOP’s national farmworker network. We’re excited about the impact this training makes on the farmworker population by enabling them to protect themselves and their children. Read more information about free Project LEAF training.

About the author: Ashley Nelsen began working at the EPA’s HQ Office in Washington, DC, in May 2008 as an intern, returning as a permanent employee in September 2009. She received her M.A. in International Environmental Policy and Spanish at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Ashley currently works on issues related to farmworker outreach, pesticide safety, the EPA regulation for worker protection and international pesticide policy.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Making a Healthy Home for a Healthier Life

By Lina Younes

There are many expressions regarding the concept of the home. My favorites are “home is where the heart is” and in Spanish, the welcoming expression, “mi casa es su casa” (my home is your home).  But have you stopped to think if your home is truly a warm, inviting and HEALTHY environment?

Did you know that our homes may have hidden environmental risks that may affect our health? What are some of these environmental risks?

  • Indoor air quality – Poor ventilation systems may lead to indoor air pollution that in turn can adversely affect people with asthma or heart and respiratory problems.
  • Mold – Do you have a leaky faucet or roof? Excess moisture may lead to the growth of mold which is a known trigger of asthma attacks.
  • Lead – Was your house built before 1978? It may have lead-based paint. Lead is a toxic metal that adversely affects people’s nervous system and causes behavioral, learning and hearing problems.
  • Radon – Did you know that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers? Radon is an invisible and odorless gas produced during the natural process of the decomposition of uranium. The gas may accumulate inside your home leading to radon exposure. Have your home tested!
  • Pests – Household pests can carry diseases and trigger asthma attacks. Use integrated pest management techniques. Don’t give pests any food, water or shelter in your home.
  • Pesticides:  Read the label before using pesticides to get rid of pests. Used improperly, pesticides may harm a developing child by blocking the absorption of food nutrients necessary for normal growth.  Also, during “critical periods” of human development (including infancy and childhood), exposure to toxins can permanently alter the way a person’s biological systems operate.

Given these potential environmental hazards in our home that may lead to serious public health problems, federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), are working to improve the safety of your home.  Just this week, EPA and its sister agencies launched a new initiative Advancing Healthy Housing – A Strategy for Action” to establish a comprehensive agenda for addressing environmental health and safety hazards in our nation’s housing.

Advancing Healthy Housing – A Strategy for Action shows how federal agencies and our partners, at all levels, can collaborate to prevent health threats associated with the home environment. You can do your part to make sure your home is safe for you and your family.  Simple steps for identifying and addressing hazards in the home can be found in EPA’s Healthy Homes  brochure, “Make Your House a Healthy Home.”

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.