Traditionally, the health of the user and the public are at risk when pesticides and similar products are applied in a building or on grounds.
Data collected by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) of the California Environmental Protection Agency at the turn of the millennium offered insight into the seriousness of this situation.
According to DPR’s pesticide injury data from 1999, there were 1,201 suspected or confirmed injuries related to chemical products used to kill pests in California. Of the 1,201 cases, 804 were occupational injuries.
As more findings, such as this report, started to surface, the federal government, in particular the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sought improvements to the registration process and proposed stricter guidelines for pesticide product approval.
Eight years later, customers have begun to shift their buying patterns in support of “green pesticides,” but still not at the expense of effectiveness.
Reader survey results
Recently, Cleaning & Maintenance Management® magazine conducted a pest control survey with its professional JanSan audience, who are in such markets as education, health care, commercial and industrial.
Below are some of the key results of this survey:
- When asked: What types of pests represent your biggest challenge? Seventy percent answered “insects,” followed by “rodents” at 21 percent.
- Seven percent reported that bedbugs, which are a growing concern in several niches, are of particular concern in the facilities they maintain.
- Do you use only EPA-registered pesticides in your organization? Yes – 95 percent, No – 5 percent.
- Would an effective pesticide that did not require EPA registration be of interest to you? Yes – 41 percent, No – 59 percent.
- Compared to your current pest control option, are you willing to pay more money for a more effective product? Yes – 60 percent, No – 40 percent.
- In separate rankings, seventy-seven percent of respondents noted that effectiveness of the product was of No. 1 importance when purchasing a pest control product, while forty percent said that the product’s impact on the environment was of No. 1 importance.
Industry tips and responses
Today, there are several pest control alternatives that minimize environmental impacts.
While some of these products are “gimmicks,” says Harlan Feese, Ph.D., technical director of EcoSMART Technologies Inc., there are others on the market that have been proven to be effective and environmentally preferable.
When it comes to pest control, an integrated pest management (IPM) plan must first be put in place.
End users, however, should prepare for a situation, use proper procedures according to state regulations, and take pro-active steps to prevent a future problem.
According to Steve Goldrich, vice president of Noble Pine Products Co., decisions on pest control often happen too late.
“Facility managers and building service contractors can no longer be reactive in the battle over pest control,” says Goldrich. “Often, it is a reaction to an existing problem that forces a manager or contractor to summon help. Because of the tenacious nature of many insects, a systematic protocol should be in place to help alleviate problems before they begin.”
Feese notes that in-house and BSC operations should, at the minimum, stock products for crawling and flying insects.
Depending on the market — for example, bedbug products in hospitality facilities — managers should always match the needs of the facility with an effective pesticide.
“Awareness is critical in pest control,” adds Feese. “There are three things pests need to have to be successful: Harborage, food and moisture. If you can eliminate any one of those, you can greatly minimize your pest problem.”
Although state regulations on pesticide application can restrict several business owners, some common variables in-house professionals and BSCs can control include, correcting the causes of water leaks and properly disposing of spoiled food.
Goldrich adds that a number of cleaning methods can also be incorporated, such as vacuuming with a HEPA filter, regular washing of all items that can be laundered proper carpet cleaning as well as using EPA-registered products that are specifically labeled for specifics pests.
In our survey, the majority of respondents noted that they are willing to pay more money for a better product.
However, experts say that price can be subjective since pest problems and needs greatly vary.
Cleaning and maintenance crews can employ regularly scheduled checks to minimize and prevent an ongoing, costly pest problem.
“If you have a pest problem, you need to stick with basic IPM principles,” says Feese.
These principles include thorough inspections, good sanitation, and a good program that involves the use of pest control products.
“The key measures for an effective pest management plan are simply communication and specifics,” adds Goldrich. “A written protocol that is posted for the appropriate person(s) as well as a log, ensures that the specific measures will be followed.”
Customer-driven green pest control
Since awareness has elevated in recent years, survey findings of green pesticides becoming a top factor in today’s buying decisions do not surprise the experts.
When conventional pesticides are applied, human health is at risk; however, greener alternatives traditionally have only short-term results.
“The downside is some of the greener products may not last as long,” says Feese, who also adds that his company’s products are derived from essential plant oils that attack specific neuron receptors, called octopamine, only found in invertebrate pests, not humans or pets.
These types of products have vastly improved in just a few years.
Whether in-house or outsourced, experts urge end users to seek green pesticide alternatives when appropriate.
“We see more people specifically asking for greener products,” says Feese. “They want a product that is environmentally friendly and limits their liabilities and their exposure to conventional synthetic chemicals.”
Effectiveness remains the No. 1 concern when purchasing a pest control product, according to our survey.
With reputation and health at risk, facility managers and business owners need quality products and ongoing expert consultation and service.
“Although customers are becoming more concerned with the environmental impact of any products they use, they are often more concerned with effectiveness of the specific product. Customers must be vigilant in asking for specific information on the products they use,” concludes Goldrich.