Pyrethrins: Are They Safe?
How Safe are Pyrethrins?
There are many products on the market that claim to be ‘safe’ or ‘natural.’ Unfortunately, those terms are used rather loosely. It is not necessarily the primary ingredient, in this case pyrethrin, that is toxic. It is the additives that enhance the effectiveness of the primary ingredient that ends up being harmful to humans and pets. This is why it is crucial that you thoroughly read the ingredient label or seek professional advice before using any product intended to get rid of pests. So, how safe are pyrethrins? Let us examine this popular method of pest control.
What are Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids?
Pyrethrins are a derivative of the chrysanthemum flower. This natural mixture of six chemicals is known to be effective against insects. It is used to control ants, fleas and ticks, flies, mosquitoes, moths, and other pests. There are human-made chemicals that act in the same fashion as pyrethrins. These products are called pyrethroids. Pyrethroids are often more toxic to mammals than their natural partner, pyrethrins.
When pyrethrin is ground, it is called pyrethrum powder. This is a product that is used when creating an effective pesticide. Among these include bug bombs, dusts, bug sprays, and pet shampoos. Pyrethrin is also used in the “organic” market. The term “organic” does not necessarily mean pesticide-free; it simply means that the method used to control nuisances is a natural based product. This chemical can also be found in some head lice treatments.
Pyrethrins affect the nervous system of the insects that consume it. It brings on paralysis and eventually leads to death. Certain additives, called synergists, enhance the toxicity and enhance the effectiveness of the product. Of course, through the increased effect upon the pests they are meant to dispose of, it increases the danger to other forms of life, namely food, pets, and humans.
Are Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids Dangerous?
As with many naturally occurring chemicals, the answer is, “it depends.” While pyrethrins are considered to be non-toxic, they are still regulated by the EPA. This is because their toxicity is questionable over time and in certain conditions. Some studies have linked these with neurotoxins, which can cause Parkinson’s disease, as well as dementia.
When synergists are added, the harm to food, pets, and humans only grows. However, pyrethrins and pyrethroids in their natural form, still have side effects. Studies have been conducted to determine their effects on these big three areas of concern.
As we mentioned earlier, just because your grocer sells products that are “organic” does not mean that pesticides are not used. If a pesticide is deemed ‘naturally occurring,’ then it falls within the definition of being ‘okay’ to use and still maintaining the label ‘organic.’ Recent studies have shown that while pyrethrin is effective at organic pest control, it requires more applications than synthetic pesticides. Which naturally poses the question as to how safe it really is.
For some pets, like dogs, the use of pyrethrins is generally safe, but like medications affect people in different ways, some dogs will have a negative reaction to the flea/tick treatment you are using. Other pets like cats and fish are highly sensitive to pyrethrins. Fish can die within minutes of ingestion, and cats do not have the metabolism to handle the chemical. The normal negative reaction from pets would be excessive drooling, convulsions, and gagging or vomiting.
In general, toxicity in humans is low. But this does not mean that exposure is harmless, especially when repeated exposure is present. Much like the way insects are affected by pyrethrins, humans are affected. It attacks the nervous system. It can cause tingling or numbness in the exposed area, breathing problems or nausea and vomiting if ingested, or irritation of the eyes when shampoos run into the face. Most symptoms are temporary and will pass as the chemical is passed through the body. But as discussed, more serious conditions are becoming known to stem from exposure to pyrethrins.
Are there Alternatives?
Since the term ‘natural’ has a wide definition, it has become unsettling to think what you have been told is safe, actually is not so safe. Do your homework when you plan to use any pesticide. Read labels, research the product thoroughly, and never believe at face value what you read in an advertisement. One of the biggest obstacles a consumer faces is how little is done to dispel the myth of the term ‘natural’ when it comes to the use of pyrethrins. It is always best to seek a pest control specialist to guide you in what is safe, and what should be avoided.
You need an expert when it comes to disposing of unwanted pests safely; someone who has perfected the art of “Killing Them Softly.” Dr. Killigan believes the best solution is simple and powerful. He is there to solve problems and make your life easier, using products like the Insect Buster Bulb. This DIY duster has the ability to house diatomaceous earth (DE) and other powder pesticides, to combat the insects that have become such a nuisance to your family and pets.
Dr. Killigan’s mission is to provide effective, non-toxic, natural and organic pest control products which are safe for family, pets, and the environment. We do this by avoiding ingredients that are; chemically derived, have a negative environmental impact, or are tested on animals. They aim to return peace of mind to your home. You will once again be able to call your home ‘classy.” No longer will you fear of these unwanted pests that keep your family indoors and friends and relatives from visiting.