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Managing Allergens in Pest Control

Best practices for allergen-free and safe pest management

Pest Control

As a cleaning and maintenance professional, you are aware of the risks associated with allergen exposure in your facility. We’re not talking about the sniffles here; we are talking about the risk of anaphylaxis. Many facilities have peanut-free zones, warnings posted about the presence of allergens, cleaning protocols, or other plans in place to keep people safe, but have you ever thought about your pest management program and how that can help or hurt the risk of dangerous allergens in your facility?

Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts), fish (bass, cod, flounder), shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp), soy, and wheat are the top eight food allergens. When someone with an allergy is exposed to these foods, the response can be anything from a mild rash to a fatal anaphylactic reaction. Although cleaning and maintenance professionals are often aware of these allergens and take steps to reduce exposure, an often-overlooked detail is the possible risks that contractors, such as pest management professionals, can introduce into your facility.

Avoid allergens as bait

How do these allergens come into play in pest management, you may wonder? A generally accepted practice is to bait rodent and wildlife traps (either snap traps or live traps) with an attractant to draw the pest in. While commercial attractants are available, many pest management technicians have learned through experience that sometimes what pests want most is in your pantry or break room. Popular baits a technician may use in both residential and commercial spaces include popcorn or seeds for squirrels, chocolate for rats, sardines or tuna for raccoons, and of course, a favorite of mice (no, not cheese)—peanut butter. Technicians may also use hot dogs, cat food, marshmallows, and other nuts or everyday items, which may contain allergens, in bait traps.

These methods are tried and true, but they can undo all the hard work cleaning and maintenance professionals do to mitigate allergen risk. This is why it’s important to sit down with your pest management provider and agree upon a protocol for the use of allergens in and around your facility. Some things to consider are:

  • What attractants are acceptable to use?
  • Where can they be used? You may consider having a different protocol for high-traffic areas (inside classrooms and guest rooms for example) versus a maintenance closet or basement.
  • Is approval needed before using an allergen? If so, who is involved in this process?
  • Do you need to post a notice about the presence of allergens?

Shop around for pest control

Finding an allergen-aware pest management provider is in your facility’s best interest. Thorough documentation and ample communication are not only attributes of a responsible pest management provider, they also are signs that the provider is well-equipped to handle a sensitive environment where allergens need to be top of mind. Here is what to
look for:

  • Find a provider who is asking specific, open-ended questions about your facility and your allergen policies.
  • Ask about the training technicians are required to complete that makes them aware of the risk of allergens. Do they know what to watch for?
  • Ask if there is a policy in place for the use of allergens in a facility, and what that policy is.
  • Your actions can play a big part in the success of your pest management provider. Make sure you:
  • Provide your technician with as much information as possible about your property and its occupants.
  • Share your internal protocols for allergen safety.
  • Review service notes with your technician so you are aware of what is happening in and around your facility.
  • Request a quarterly or annual review of the materials used in your facility.
  • Place the allergen policy in the pest management logbook.

When choosing a pest control provider, you are choosing a business partner. Your provider should understand the risks allergens pose, as well as the ins and outs of your facility and its inhabitants. This will allow the provider to design the safest, most effective treatment plan possible for your facility.

RELATED: Staff Training for Pest Control 

Shane McCoy

Shane McCoy, B.C.E., is the Director of Quality and Technical Training at Wil-Kil Pest Control, a regional pest management company providing quality pest management for commercial and residential properties throughout the Upper Midwest.

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Managing Allergens in Pest Control
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