Pregnant women and small children should avoid exposure to pesticides. This is especially true of pesticides in the category of organophosphates, which are commonly used in flea treatments such as collars, powders and sprays. Dr. Linda Chambliss, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at St. Louis School of Medicine, says that, while one-time exposure to pesticides is not a necessarily a cause for concern, regularly spraying your home for bugs may be a problem.
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The Lingering Effect
In their report "Poison Pets II: Toxic Chemicals in Flea and Tick Collars," the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that even after flea collars are removed, the level of pesticides present in a pet's fur remains high. This residue can stick around for weeks, and if it's on your pet, it's in your home. Dogs and cats who get on the furniture bring their flea collars with them, and anything they touch--carpets, drapes, clothes--can be contaminated.
The Health Effects
The NRDC's report also indicates that the level of residue from tetrachlorvinphos- and propxur-based flea treatments posed a risk to children and adults exposed to it just through playing with their pets. And those aren't the only chemicals to worry about. A recent study from the Rodale Institute shows that even low-level exposure of pregnant mice to chlorphyrifos impaired learning of the offspring, as well as altering brain function and effecting thyroid levels into adulthood. Chlorphyrifos is a common pesticide, used often in flea collars, powders and dips.
The Effect on Air Quality
Flea and tick sprays are another matter to consider. While some chemicals, such as chlorphyrifos, have been taken out of products like mosquito sprays, they've remained a common ingredient in flea and tick sprays. In a study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 500 pregnant women wore personal air samplers. Ninety-eight per cent of the air samples showed chlorphyrifos. And even five years after chlorphyrifos was phased out of the market for use in mosquito sprays, it's still a very common contaminate in the air.
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- Natural Resources Defense Council: Poisons on Pets
- WebMD: Toxins and Pregnancy
- WebMD: Natural Insect Control: Flea and Tick Treatments for Pets
- Rodale Institute: Tiny pesticide exposure during pregnancy can have long-term impact on female offspring
- Environmental Health Perspectives: New Pesticides, Old Problems: Despite Warnings, Use during Pregnancy Persists