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Daily News Archive
From April 17, 2002

Hidden Pesticide Hazards Lurk in Newly Built Homes

Last year approximately 400,000,000 gallons of chemical termiticides were pumped onto American soil. That's enough chemical to fill 80,000 semi-tanker trucks. Imagine a line of tanker trucks that would stretch bumper-to-bumper from New York to St. Louis, or approximately 450 miles. That's a lot of chemical going into the ground, and environmentalists say the sad part is it's not even necessary.

The results of a telephone survey released today, conducted by All Cylinders research, find that six out of ten major new homebuilders in the United States are moving away from hazardous chemicals to treat new home construction. This trend is moving slower than it should be, according to environmentalists. Even though the termite insecticide chlorpyrifos (Dursban) has been banned from store shelves, builders and pest control companies can use stocks to treat new homes until 2006. "Current termite control practices are hazardous for new homeowners, who are not even required to be notified of toxic chemical use (soil poisons)," said Jay Feldman, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based group Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides. A 2000 square foot home requires that 380 gallons of pesticide be pumped into the ground. In a 100 home subdivision, that's about 38 thousand gallons put where children and pets play, and the family gardens.

Under pressure from EPA, Dow Chemical pulled Dursban from retail shelves at the end of 2001, but continues selling it for termite pretreatments in new home construction. Until its use as a termiticide is banned in 2006 for new homes and buildings, it's still being used.

The use of Dursban for termite pre-treatment could stop immediately. Borates are sprayed directly on the wood during the dried-in phase of construction, saving the builder time and money and providing termite protection for as long as the wood is in service. Borate based products exhibit low toxicity to humans and other mammals. Other alternatives include steel mesh barriers and steel termite shields under and around foundations.

If a builder is building a 200 home subdivision using soil treatments, he may pump 76,000 gallons of chemicals into the ground under those homes. Imagine having 15 tanker trucks pull into a subdivision and dump their contents into the soil! And in most cases it is a chemical that has been removed from the marketplace because of health risks to children.

For more information, contact Jay Feldman at 202-543-5450, or jfeldman@beyondpesticides.org.