Pesticides are used in many places: on farms, in our homes, and in our yards. Some farmers spray vegetables and fruits to protect them against insects. And most of our homes, at one time or another, have pests such as roaches, mice, ants or weeds. While pesticides can be useful, they also can be dangerous. Examples of pesticides in the home are bug sprays, roach traps, ant traps, and mouse and rat bait. To protect your children and yourself, use these products carefully and store them properly.

The Risks of Pesticides

Some pesticides are poisonous when people eat or drink them. If you think your child has eaten or drunk a pesticide, call 911 or the Poison Control Center (800) 222-1222.

More research is needed about how pesticides affect our health. For instance, some studies have found links between childhood cancers and some pesticides. But other studies have not found these links.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Child Against Pesticides in Food

  • Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables with water before your child eats them.
  • Give your child fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. They are less likely to have been heavily sprayed.
  • When possible, avoid giving your children foods that have been treated with chemical pesticides.

What You Can Do to Reduce the Risks of Pests and Pesticides at Home

  • Remove food and water that might attract pests. Leaky water pipes can attract pests.
  • Destroy places where pests can live and breed. Examples: litter, plant debris.
  • If you decide to use a pesticide, read the label first. Follow the directions exactly. Pay special attention to warnings, cautions and restrictions.
  • Whenever you can, use non-chemical pesticides. But remember, even natural ingredients can sometimes be poisonous. Always read the label.
  • Use only the amount recommended. Don’t think that twice the amount will do twice the job.
  • If the label says so, wear plastic gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when using a pesticide.
  • Cover all food before using a pesticide indoors.
  • Keep children, their toys and pets away from the area where a pesticide is being used. Wait until it has dried or until the label says it’s safe for them to come back.
  • Don’t spray outside on a windy or rainy day.
  • When using a pesticide outside, be sure it doesn’t blow or run into the swimming pool, the vegetable garden, the sandbox, or the neighbor’s yard.
  • Don’t buy more than you need. If you have leftover pesticides, check with your local government. Some communities have special programs to collect and dispose of hazardous products.
  • If you use a pest-control service, ask them for information about the risks and safety precautions for their products.
  • Put the phone number of the Poison Control Center near your phone: (800) 222-1222.
  • Store pesticides out of children’s reach. Use a locked cabinet or garden shed. Child-proof safety latches are also a good idea. You can buy them at a hardware or home-supply store.
  • Never put a pesticide in a container that children might think is food or drink. For instance, a jar or bottle with a liquid pesticide might looks like something to drink.
  • Never place ant, roach, mice or rat bait where small children can get to them.
  • Teach your children that pesticides are poison and that they shouldn’t touch them.
  • Tell baby-sitters and grandparents about the dangers of pesticides.

The Environmental Protection Agency has more information about how to prevent poisonings in your home.

February 2009

Most common questions

Are plastic baby bottles that use BPA & phthalates safe?

Scientists are debating whether BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates pose a risk to children's health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concerns about chemicals used in plastics. BPA is used to make plastics clear, strong and hard to break. Some baby bottles, dishes and toys contain this chemical. Some research has found that bisphenol A can affect the brain, behavior and prostate gland in infants and children.

If you're concerned, buy BPA-free plastic baby products. You can also use baby bottles made of glass, polypropylene or polyethylene. If you use plastics, avoid plastics numbered 3 or 7 (look for the number in a triangle typically found on the bottom of containers). Use plastics numbered 1, 2 and 4. If plastic baby bottles and infant cups contain BPA, discard them if they have scratches. Don't put boiling or very hot liquids, such as formula, into plastic bottles or containers that contain BPA.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).