V.25 No.29 | 07/21/2016

Pesticide Precautionary Principle

We need to do a better job on using pesticides in society and we can do this by practicing the Pesticide Precautionary Principle (PPP) before allowing any pesticide to be used. PPP means that if an application of a pesticide has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those applying the pesticide. A burden of proof would be a scientific consensus, such a peer-reviewed paper, that the pesticide is not harmful. A statement by a distributor, applicator, the manufacturer or a government agency without scientific documentation is not satisfactory and the pesticide should not be applied until proven safe. The PPP implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harmful pesticides when scientific investigations have found a plausible risk. The use of the pesticide should only occur in an emergency or when further scientific findings emerge that provide evidence that no harm to anyone or the environment will result. It should be the responsibility of the decision-makers to anticipate any damage to someone’s health and the environment before any pesticide application occurs.

The Pesticide Precautionary Principle should be adopted on all levels for all pests. It would even benefit the homeowner to insist that their exterminator practice PPP.

This is what needs to be done. When a pest is found to be problematic, on any level, including in homes, then the agency or exterminator needs to properly identify the pest and provide scientific evidence of any harm the pest can do. Not just say that cockroaches cause diseases, or mosquitoes carry diseases, or fleas, ticks and others so-called pests can cause diseases. They need to show scientific proof of what diseases the particular species of cockroach, mosquito, flea, tick, etc. can cause. Then they need to show what needs to be done to control them, and if pesticides are the only solution, the pesticides have to be proven scientifically safe in order to be used. All of this needs to be documented by the government agency or exterminator before any control methods are considered. If you have ants in your house and they are just a nuisance because of their presence, then why would you consider using potentially dangerous pesticides to control them? If you are in an office building, and no pests of any kind are present, why would you want an exterminator to come in and apply potentially toxic pesticides to baseboards when no pest is present? If you are going to have someone use pesticides, insist they follow PPP and provide you with documentation showing that the pesticides they are going to use are not harmful to people, pets or the environment. If they can’t provide that documentation, do not let them spray the pesticides.

If an agency wants to spray for mosquitoes because of the fear of Zika, and the mosquito that vectors Zika has been found in your area, make sure they know what they are doing. If they want to spray a pesticide at night to control a mosquito that is a daytime biter like the Zika mosquito is, it is clear they don’t know what they are doing. Have the agency or pest control company that wants to spray for the mosquitoes, provide you with a positive identification of the mosquito species they want to control, along with information on the habits of that species of mosquito. Also, they need to provide scientific evidence that the pesticides they want to use are harmless to humans and will not damage the environment. If they can’t provide that information, they should not be allowed to spray the pesticides.

We cannot continue to use pesticides that can harm our children, our elderly and almost anyone else and that can cause damage to the environment and that will not really control the pests. We need to rethink how we practice pest management by adopting the Pesticide Precautionary Principles.

If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at or by phone at 505-385-2820. My website is

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