Pesticides Impact on Indoor Air Quality, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), US EPA


Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Pesticides’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality

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Pesticides are chemicals that are used to kill or control pests which include bacteria, fungi and other organisms, in addition to insects and rodents. Pesticides are inherently toxic.

According to a recent survey, 75 percent of U.S. households used at least one pesticide product indoors during the past year. Products used most often are insecticides and disinfectants. Another study suggests that 80 percent of most people’s exposure to pesticides occurs indoors and that measurable levels of up to a dozen pesticides have been found in the air inside homes.

The amount of pesticides found in homes appears to be greater than can be explained by recent pesticide use in those households; other possible sources include:

  • contaminated soil or dust that floats or is tracked in from outside
  • stored pesticide containers
  • household surfaces that collect and then release the pesticides

Pesticides used in and around the home include products to control:

  • insects (insecticides)
  • termites (termiticides)
  • rodents (rodenticides)
  • fungi (fungicides)
  • microbes (disinfectants)

They are sold as sprays, liquids, sticks, powders, crystals, balls and foggers.

In 1990, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that some 79,000 children were involved in common household pesticide poisonings or exposures. In households with children under five years old, almost one-half stored at least one pesticide product within reach of children.

EPA registers pesticides for use and requires manufacturers to put information on the label about when and how to use the pesticide. It is important to remember that the «-cide» in pesticides means «to kill». These products can be dangerous if not used properly.

In addition to the active ingredient, pesticides are also made up of ingredients that are used to carry the active agent. These carrier agents are called «inerts» in pesticides because they are not toxic to the targeted pest; nevertheless, some inerts are capable of causing health problems.

National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC)

EPA sponsors the NPIC (800) 858-PEST/800-858-7378 to answer your questions about pesticides and to provide selected EPA publications on pesticides.

Sources of Pesticides

  • Products used to kill household pests (insecticides, termiticides and disinfectants)
  • Products used on lawns and gardens that drift or are tracked inside the house

Pesticides are classed as semi-volatile organic compounds and include a variety of chemicals in various forms.

Health Effects

Exposure to pesticides may result in

  • Irritation to eye, nose and throat
  • damage to central nervous system and kidney
  • increased risk of cancer

Symptoms may include

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscular weakness
  • nausea

Chronic exposure to some pesticides can result in damage to the:

  • liver
  • kidneys
  • endocrine and nervous systems

Both the active and inert ingredients in pesticides can be organic compounds; therefore, both could add to the levels of airborne organics inside homes. Both types of ingredients can cause the type of effects discussed in Household Chemicals/Products. However, as with other household products, there is insufficient understanding at present about what pesticide concentrations are necessary to produce these effects.

Exposure to high levels of cyclodiene pesticides, commonly associated with misapplication, has produced various symptoms, including:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • muscle twitching
  • weakness
  • tingling sensations
  • nausea

In addition, EPA is concerned that cyclodienes might cause long-term damage to the liver and the central nervous system, as well as an increased risk of cancer.

There is no further sale or commercial use permitted for the following cyclodiene or related pesticides: chlordane, aldrin, dieldrin and heptachlor. The only exception is the use of heptachlor by utility companies to control fire ants in underground cable boxes.

Levels in Homes

Preliminary research shows widespread presence of pesticide residues in homes.

Steps to Reduce Exposure

  • Use strictly according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • Mix or dilute outdoors.
  • Apply only in recommended quantities.
  • Increase ventilation when using indoors. Take plants or pets outdoors when applying pesticides/flea and tick treatments.
  • Use non-chemical methods of pest control where possible.
  • If you use a pest control company, select it carefully.
  • Do not store unneeded pesticides inside home; dispose of unwanted containers safely.
  • Store clothes with moth repellents in separately ventilated areas, if possible.
  • Keep indoor spaces clean, dry and well ventilated to avoid pest and odor problems.

Read the label and follow the directions. It is illegal to use any pesticide in any manner inconsistent with the directions on its label.

Unless you have had special training and are certified, never use a pesticide that is restricted to use by state-certified pest control operators. Such pesticides are simply too dangerous for application by a non-certified person. Use only the pesticides approved for use by the general public and then only in recommended amounts; increasing the amount does not offer more protection against pests and can be harmful to you and your plants and pets.

Ventilate the area well after pesticide use.

Mix or dilute pesticides outdoors or in a well-ventilated area and only in the amounts that will be immediately needed. If possible, take plants and pets outside when applying pesticides/flea and tick treatments.

Use non-chemical methods of pest control when possible.

Since pesticides can be found far from the site of their original application, it is prudent to reduce the use of chemical pesticides outdoors as well as indoors. Depending on the site and pest to be controlled, one or more of the following steps can be effective:

  • use of biological pesticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, for the control of gypsy moths
  • selection of disease-resistant plants
  • frequent washing of indoor plants and pets
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Termite damage can be reduced or prevented by making certain that wooden building materials do not come into direct contact with the soil and by storing firewood away from the home. By appropriately fertilizing, watering and aerating lawns, the need for chemical pesticide treatments of lawns can be dramatically reduced.

If you decide to use a pest control company, choose one carefully.

Ask for an inspection of your home and get a written control program for evaluation before you sign a contract. The control program should list specific names of pests to be controlled and chemicals to be used; it should also reflect any of your safety concerns. Insist on a proven record of competence and customer satisfaction.

Dispose of unwanted pesticides safely.

If you have unused or partially used pesticide containers you want to get rid of, dispose of them according to the directions on the label or on special household hazardous waste collection days. If there are no such collection days in your community, work with others to organize them.

Keep exposure to moth repellents to a minimum.

One pesticide often found in the home is paradichlorobenzene, a commonly used active ingredient in moth repellents. This chemical is known to cause cancer in animals, but substantial scientific uncertainty exists over the effects, if any, of long-term human exposure to paradichlorobenzene. EPA requires that products containing paradichlorobenzene bear warnings such as «avoid breathing vapors» to warn users of potential short-term toxic effects. Where possible, paradichlorobenzene and items to be protected against moths, should be placed in trunks or other containers that can be stored in areas that are separately ventilated from the home, such as attics and detached garages. Paradichlorobenzene is also the key active ingredient in many air fresheners (in fact, some labels for moth repellents recommend that these same products be used as air fresheners or deodorants). Proper ventilation and basic household cleanliness will go a long way toward preventing unpleasant odors.

Integrated Pest Management

If chemicals must be used, use only the recommended amounts, mix or dilute pesticides outdoors or in an isolated well ventilated area, apply to unoccupied areas, and dispose of unwanted pesticides safely to minimize exposure.

Standards or Guidelines

No air concentration standards for pesticides have been set, however, EPA recommends Integrated Pest Management, which minimizes the use of chemical pesticides. Pesticide products must be used according to application and ventilation instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Additional Resources

Pesticides: Uses, Effects and Alternatives to Pesticides in Schools, U.S. General Accounting Office, Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Governmental Affairs, Resources, Community and Economic Development Division, U.S. Senate, November 29, 1999, GAO/RCED-00-17. U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, DC. Call (202) 512-6000 or fax (202) 512-6061, or TDD (202) 512-2537.

Managing Pests in Schools. Designed to encourage school officials to adopt IPM practices for reducing children’s exposure to pesticides; includes information on how to start a program, success stories and funding.

Integrated Pest Management in Schools Exit University of Florida, National Integrated Pest Management Network website for parents, teachers, administrators, and pest managers providing technical information, management practices, presentations, teaching curricula, a message board, and an IPM list serve.

Contact Us to ask a question, provide feedback, or report a problem.

Skin & Food Sensitivities in Cats

Does your cat have itchy, scratchy, or dry skin?

Ideally your cat’s fur should be clean and fluffy, and feel soft and smooth when you pet her. So if you do discover redness, lumps, flaking or other signs of irritation when you pet her, she may have a skin condition that requires treatment. Look out for an increase in scratching, licking or itching in places she’s favoring more often.

What are the causes of cat itching?

Your cat’s itchy & dry skin can have many causes. If she is showing signs of irritation, consult with your veterinarian who will be able to diagnose the condition. Your veterinarian may recommend tests to identify the exact reason for your cat’s skin condition. Common causes may include:


This can occur as a reaction to certain kinds of proteins in your cat’s food.


Your cat may be allergic to “inhaled” allergens such as dust, pollen, mold, etc. Some flea treatments can cause “contact” allergies.


Fleas, lice and mites can all cause skin irritation. Bites from parasites are irritating, causing cats to bite and scratch themselves, damaging their skin.


Too much or too little of certain hormones can make cats prone to skin problems. These imbalances may point to other serious underlying problems that need to be identified and treated.


Bacterial infections can cause skin problems.

The Impact of Drones on Birds

DFSB DE/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

Not everything that flies is a bird, and as more people experiment with drones for professional, recreational and personal use, these unusual vehicles will have more of an impact on birds. Will that impact be negative or positive?

About Drones

Drones — unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) — are remotely operated aircraft that often carry sophisticated electronics, including monitoring tools, GPS and cameras. There are many drone designs, which often include multiple rotary blades reminiscent of helicopters. This gives drones exceptional maneuverability and the ability to hover.

Drones have been used for military applications for many years, but in recent years smaller, lighter, more affordable designs have made drones more popular for commercial and recreational use. Depending on the style, drones may be used for surveillance, inspections, surveys, photography, videos, and other applications. Drones are being used more frequently in firefighting, search and rescue and other tasks as well. Hobbyists are experimenting more frequently with drones, and as more of these vehicles take to the skies, birds may be at risk from improper drone use.

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How Drones Can Hurt Birds

There are several ways irresponsible drone use could cause harm to birds, including:

  • Disrupting Nests: When drones are flown too close to rookeries or bird nests, the noise and unfamiliar presence of a drone could drive adult birds away. This can lead to neglect or abandonment of vulnerable eggs and chicks, reducing the breeding success of sensitive bird populations.
  • Provoking Attacks: Some birds, particularly raptors, are very territorial about their nesting areas, and if drones are perceived to be a threat, the birds may attack the remote vehicles. This diverts the parent birds from caring for their hatchlings, foraging or otherwise tending to their own survival needs. Birds that attack drones could also be injured by moving blades or other parts of the equipment.
  • Scattering Leks: Birds that congregate on leks for courtship displays can be particularly sensitive to disturbances, and if a drone appears to be a flying predator, the birds may scatter prematurely. This can drastically impact their ability to find suitable mates, and if the lek is not revisited, it may take generations for birds to find and begin using another suitable site with the same success.
  • Interrupting Feeding: If a drone disturbs a foraging bird, the bird may abandon a good food source and be forced to seek less abundant or nutritious resources. This type of disruption can have a catastrophic impact on overall bird populations, as malnourished birds do not breed as successfully or raise as many healthy chicks.
  • Midair Collisions: It is possible that a drone could inadvertently fly into a flock of birds or otherwise collide with birds, causing severe injuries. While there have not yet been any reported instances of accidental midair collisions — birds colliding with drones as they attack are a different type of impact — as drone use rises, this risk also increases.

How Drones Can Help Birds

Despite the potential risks of drone use, there are ways this technology can be positively harnessed to be immensely helpful to birds, including:

  • Monitoring Sensitive Areas: If drones are used cautiously, they may be able to quickly and safely monitor leks, nests or rookeries without impacting birds. By using video or infrared technology, drones can collect data from greater distances than traditional observers, minimizing the impact on wary, sensitive bird species.
  • Population Counts: Drones could be used to more accurately assess bird populations in remote areas where accessibility, finances or other factors make it less feasible for humans to survey the birds. This can lead to better awareness of population shifts or changes that can impact conservation measures.
  • Poaching Records: In areas where bird poaching is a concern, drones could be used to monitor suspected illegal activities and record poaching acts with far less risk to observers. The video evidence collected by drones may also be helpful in convicting suspected poachers and minimizing crimes against wildlife.
  • Airport Safety: It is possible that drones could become another tool airports use to minimize bird collisions with planes. Not only could drones be used to disrupt potentially dangerous flocks near airports, but they could record data that can be analyzed to help keep flocks away from busy flight paths.
  • Habitat Preservation: Where drones can be used for research and monitoring, there will be less need to damage or destroy habitat to create roads, observation areas or other facilities. This leaves more habitat intact for birds and other wildlife to use, which is essential in many areas where fragmented habitat can be just as damaging as total habitat loss.
  • Inspiration: Drones can be used in many commercial filming applications, and the aerial footage they acquire can be truly inspiring. When drones are used in nature photography and videos, they may help people learn about birds, encouraging more people to become active in birding and bird conservation.

Responsible Drone Use

Whether or not drones are helpful or harmful to birds in the long term remains to be seen, but responsible use can go a long way to minimizing any negative impacts. The best drones to use near any wildlife, including birds, will be smaller vehicles designed for quiet, unobtrusive flight. They should be flown cautiously, not approaching birds either too closely or too quickly. Drone designs with shields to cover the blades will also be safer in case of accidental collisions or aggressive bird attacks. Recreational drone users should always keep their vehicles away from wildlife and should obey all local restrictions or guidelines for safe drone use.

As more and more technology intersects with wildlife, there is potential for both great harm and a great help. By understanding both the negative and positive impacts drones may have on birds, birders can make the best possible use of this innovative technology.

Things to remember when a parent has bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition that can disrupt a person’s life and ability to function. As a close relative of someone with bipolar disorder, there are things to keep in mind when interacting with them. Living with a person who has bipolar disorder may be challenging at times, but it is essential to create a stable home environment so that everyone in the family feels safe and secure.

Fostering an atmosphere of stability may help avoid adverse effects on a child. Children require stability and safety in their home environment, and it may be difficult for someone with symptoms of bipolar that they cannot control to provide that.

A child who experiences an unstable home life may be more prone to certain issues, such as:

  • difficulty in relationships
  • emotional distress
  • health problems
  • high levels of stress
  • anxiety disorders

A parent with bipolar disorder may disrupt the lives of their immediate family members, especially their children. Parents with this condition may wish to consider counseling for both themselves and their children.

With that said, it is important for both young and adult children of a parent with bipolar to keep the following points in mind.

Share on Pinterest It is important that a child does not feel responsible for their parent’s symptoms.

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The child of a parent with bipolar disorder needs to understand that what is happening is not their fault.

Keeping the illness in perspective may help prevent children from blaming themselves when the parent is demonstrating symptoms of their disorder.

For instance, one of the issues facing a parent with bipolar disorder is that they may exhibit symptoms of mania or depression, depending on the particular form of their illness.

When they have a manic episode, they may lash out at their child or be quick to anger. During a depressive episode, the parent may seem uninterested in their loved ones.

In either case, it is helpful for children to understand that these behaviors are symptomatic of the disorder and not a reflection of their own actions.

It is also vital that both the parent and child keep the lines of communication open. The parent should feel comfortable telling their child when they are having difficulty dealing with symptoms.

The child should also feel comfortable asking their parent about their symptoms and being honest about how they feel in the moment. Keeping communication open may help ease tension and prevent the child from developing resentment toward their parent.

People living with a parent who has bipolar disorder may also consider asking for counseling to talk to a third party about the issues that they face.

It is natural for a child whose parent has bipolar disorder to have questions about the condition and how it affects everyone around them. A person may benefit from taking these questions to a specialist and talking through them.

Some of the more common questions that a child may ask about a parent with bipolar disorder include those below.

How can I tell if my parent is having a manic or depressive episode?

Some common signs may indicate when a parent is experiencing either type of episode.

During a manic episode, a person may show signs that include:

  • talking very quickly or bouncing from subject to subject
  • being overly energetic in comparison with their usual character
  • having a hard time sleeping or sleeping very little
  • getting distracted easily
  • going on shopping sprees and being reckless with money

During a depressive episode, a person may be:

  • sleeping too much or staying in bed for extended periods
  • feeling sad or having emotional outbursts
  • staying home from work
  • avoiding friends and social activities
  • being untalkative

Is this my fault?

No. Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that has nothing to do with the person’s family or friends. It is a lifelong condition that may change over time or respond to treatment in different ways.

A child’s behavior does not contribute in any way to the condition or the episodes and symptoms that their parent goes through.

Is this going to happen to me?

There is a link between having a parent with bipolar disorder and developing the disorder.

A study in The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders notes that children of people with bipolar disorder have a 5–15 percent risk of developing this condition.

However, the chance of not having bipolar disorder is still much higher than the likelihood of having it. Children need to understand that it cannot pass from person to person in the way that the common cold can and that it will not “rub off” on people with whom their parent interacts.

Will my parent get better?

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. There is no outright cure, but many people find that they can control their symptoms with proper treatment.

Parents with bipolar disorder will benefit from understanding how the condition affects them and their children. It may help everyone feel more comfortable to keep the following things in mind.

Consider how loved ones are feeling

It is important for a parent with bipolar disorder to be aware that the condition will also affect people close to them, including a partner and any children.

Taking time to consider their family members’ points of view may help people with the condition be more open about what they are experiencing themselves.

In many cases, it may be as simple as letting loved ones know that an episode does not reflect on them in any way.

Remember that there is no need for shame

A person with bipolar disorder may not want to discuss their symptoms because they feel shame about how they behave during an episode. These feelings are normal, but it may still help the individual to remind themselves that there is no real basis for feelings of shame.

People with bipolar disorder do not decide when to have an episode, and they do not get to choose their symptoms either. There is no reason to feel in any way ashamed of having bipolar disorder.

Understanding this may help bridge the gap in communication with a child. Opening up about how the condition affects them as a parent may also help their children cope with the situation.

Help children avoid shame

It is also important to help children avoid shame in their own lives.

Unfortunately, mental health issues still carry a level of stigma, and a child whose parent has bipolar may feel as though they cannot relate or open up to their peers.

Parents should help their children find the support that they need outside of the home as well, so they can cultivate healthy relationships with others.

Express love

As a 2017 review notes, children who have parents with mental health disorders often describe themselves as feeling vulnerable, lonely, or helpless. These feelings may lead to further isolation and might even affect a child’s emotional or psychological development.

To help counteract this, set aside time outside of the normal daily routine to interact with the children lovingly each day. Let them know that the illness does not come before them. It may seem simple, but nurturing is extremely important for a child to feel safe and comfortable.

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