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WHAT CAN YOU DO

Organochlorine Pesticides

Q: Where Am I Exposed?

Adapted from a case study on Organochlorine pesticides, found online here.

Organochlorine pesticides are mostly used as insecticides and include DDT, chlordane and other pesticides. Specific uses take a wide range of forms, from pellet application in field crops to sprays for seed coating and grain storage. Some organochlorines are applied to surfaces to kill insects that land there. OPs are used to treat wood to prevent pest damage. Some organochlorine pesticides are used on crops to control pests in vegetables, fruits, cereal grains, and cotton, as well as ornamental shrubs, trees, vines, and ornamental plants.

Lindane is another organochlorine with a range of uses. In the U.S., lindane has been used to protect crop seeds from insects, for pest control in forests, on livestock and household pets for control of ticks and other pests, and in homes to control ants and other household pests. It is also the active ingredient in many medicated shampoos and soaps to control head lice and scabies. Lindane is now restricted to seedcoating uses for a handful of grain crops, and continues to be used to control lice and scabies (except in California, where these uses were recently banned). Internationally, lindane is banned or severely restricted in 40 countries.

Adapted from the LDDI practice prevention column on pesticides:

Pesticides can be found:

  • On land: agricultural fields, golf courses, sports fields, playgrounds, roadsides, gardens and lawns;
  • At home: professional exterminations and carpet treatments, flea sprays and dips for dogs and cats;
  • Inside schools and community buildings: professional exterminations and carpet treatments, pressure-treated (CCA) lumber;
  • On bodies: head lice treatments, insect and tick repellants;
  • On food: during cultivation on farms as well as after harvesting to deter fungal growth during shipping.

Q: What Can I Do?

  • Always wash fruits and vegetables. Even after washing and cooking foods, pesticide residues may remain, so peel fruits and vegetables when possible, too;
  • Buy organically grown produce whenever you can, especially those foods most likely to contain chemical residues;
  • Wipe shoes on doormats and leave them at the door to avoid tracking in pesticide residues;
  • Control dust which can also contain pesticide residues in your home. Vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum if possible. Use damp dust rags instead of feather dusters which stir up dust and disperse it into the air;
  • Avoid all use of pesticides on your lawn and garden and in your house. There are safer alternatives for every use of chemical pesticides, such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for your home and garden. Avoid lindane, a pesticide in head lice treatments for children. Visit Beyond Pesticides for suggested alternatives;
  • Prevent household pests naturally by removing their sources of food, water, and shelter. Fix leaky plumbing and prevent wet spots inside and outside your home, wipe up food residues on countertops, seal pet food containers, keep garbage sealed, rinse recyclable containers, remove woodpiles from around or inside your home, repair door and window screens, and remove diseased plants and fallen fruit that may attract pests to your garden;
  • Lock pesticides away from children’s reach if you do store them at home. Keep toxics in the original containers and follow all warning label directions;
  • Talk to neighbors, schools, businesses, and government officials about reducing pesticide use on playgrounds, lawns, roadsides, schools, and other public areas. There are alternatives!

Adapted from the Practice Prevention Columns on the Collaborative on Health and the Environment website, and other sources as indicated.

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