Pest-Free Homes = Healthy Environments for Healthy Kids

Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator of U.S. EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution PreventionBy Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

October is Children’s Health Month, making it a perfect time to highlight the steps we’re taking in EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) to protect their health, particularly at home. Children are more sensitive to environmental hazards than adults. We have an important responsibility to keep their home environment healthy and pest-fee, while also preventing children from being exposed to potential harmful products, including pesticides.

Some common household pesticides include rodent bait, mothballs, insect repellents, weed killers, and bath and kitchen disinfectants. While they are helpful in keeping your home free of pests, if used or stored improperly, pesticide products can potentially harm you or your children.

Before registering a pesticide, EPA evaluates the product to ensure that, when used according to label directions, no unreasonable adverse effects on human health or the environment will occur. The Agency develops human health and ecological risk assessments, researches alternative pesticides that are already registered, and determines if any measures or label specifications are needed to reduce risk.

Consider these tips to keep children safe from household pesticides:

  • Always read the product label and follow all directions when using pesticides.
  • Never store pesticides in containers that may be mistaken for food or drink.
  • Store pesticide products out of the reach of children.
  • Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container tightly after use.
  • Safely use rodent bait products by placing them only in locations where children cannot access them and keeping them in the bait stations in which they are sold.
  • Avoid illegal household pesticide products, including unregistered mothballs that can easily be mistaken for candy.
  • In case of accidental poisoning, keep the number for the Poison Control Center’s national helpline number readily available (1-800-222-1222).

In addition to following best practices to poison-proof your home, be mindful of the products you select. Products with EPA registration numbers have been reviewed by scientists at EPA. For products used on pests of significant public health importance, such as ticks and mosquitoes, EPA requires data that shows the product works on that pest and works effectively as claimed on the label. EPA is working to make more options available to choose from. For example, after thoroughly reviewing the science, we recently proposed to register a new rodent poison called alphachloralose to control house mice. It acts by putting mice to sleep and is not harmful to children when used according to the label.

To further protect children at home, you can also consider different approaches to pest management. Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, focuses on pest prevention and using pesticides only when needed. IPM is better for the environment and saves money in pesticide treatment and energy costs by improving insulation as a result of sealing cracks and adding door sweeps.

Whether at home or out in the world, let’s work to create healthy environments for all children!


About the author: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Prior to that she served as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, and her responsibilities included overseeing the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and ten tribal nations. Read more.

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