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Least Toxic Control of Pests In the Home and Garden

Choose a PestIf all other methods have failed, and monitoring shows that your pest population is still above your action thresholds, then, and only then, should you consider spot treatment of the least toxic pesticides. You must weigh the risks associated with the use of a pesticide against the problems caused by the pest. Consider your options carefully, being mindful not to blindly jump at a solution that may have risks without first collecting the facts.

The term 'least toxic pesticides' does not include a pesticide that is

  1. determined by EPA to be a possible, probable, or known carcinogen, mutagen, teratogen, reproductive toxin, developmental neurotoxin, endocrine disrupter, or immune system toxin;
  2. a pesticide in EPA's toxicity category I or II; and,
  3. any application of the pesticide using a broadcast spray, dust, tenting, fogging, or baseboard spray application.

If you must use a pesticide, you should the least toxic pesticide available. Boric acid, formulated from a natural mineral, is an effective ant and cockroach stomach poison. When properly applied, it has a relatively low toxicity compared to other pesticides. Further, it does not evaporate into the indoor air of the structure, unlike many other pesticides. Look for boric acid that has less than one percent of inert ingredients, therefore you have a better idea of what you are applying and its risks than with most other pesticides. While boric acid is somewhat slower acting than other materials, it is highly effective over a long period of time. But remember, all pesticides are poisons designed to kill, and should be handled carefully and with respect. Boric acid should be applied only in areas where it will not come in contact with people - cracks and crevices, behind counters, and in baseboards. Applicators should wear protective clothing, gloves, and a filter mask.

The following Least Toxic Control of Pests factsheets can be ordered individually or as a compilation by emailing Beyond Pesticides. Check back often as we are continually updating our factsheets that are available online. More information on integrated pest management and utilizing least toxic alternatives, check out our Children and Pesticides page.