Professor Pest's Best All-Natural Pest Control Guide
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Are All-Natural Pesticides "Safer?"
Probably...usually...but not always, and not necessarily. A pesticide, by definition, is a substance intended to kill target pest organisms. So any pesticide, all-natural or otherwise, is not "safe" for certain things. Rather, quite the opposite. How safe any pesticide may be is actually a function its concentration in combination with the level and duration of exposure to that which is exposed. So it is important to note that ALL pesticides are TOXIC.
That said, however, all-natural pest control products are often comparatively "safer" in a human sense when compared to many synthetic pesticides. Truly natural pesticides are ones that are derived entirely (or nearly entirely) from naturally occurring elements with little or no alteration. Synthetic pesticides, on the other hand, are man-made, or produced by some measure of chemical alteration. In some instances, natural pesticides may actually have a higher lever of relative toxicity to target and/or non-target pests than comparable synthetic pesticides.
Here are some of the typical advantages of all-natural pesticide products:
Advantages of All-Natural Pesticides...
Safer (Sometimes) For The Environment:Some synthetic pesticide compounds break down slowly (often by design) over time, allowing their concentrations to linger in the soil and waterways long beyond the time of application. Using organic or natural pest control products is likely to minimize many of these potentially adverse environmental impacts.
Safer (Sometimes) For The Applicator:The greatest risk of pesticide exposure is during the handling and application process, especially when mixing chemical concentrates. The most common pathways to exposure include pesticide absorption, inhalation, and ingestion. Some (not all) synthetic pesticides contain known carcinogens and other potentially harmful components that deserve due consideration, while many (not all) natural pesticides do not. If proper personal protective equipment is used and proper application techniques are followed (which should be a given), then risk of exposure to any pesticide should be extremely low.
Safer (Sometimes) For Pets:Many of us are concerned with the potential risk of pesticide exposure for our dogs, cats, and other pets. In a general sense, natural products are likely to pose less of a threat than comparable synthetics. Of course this comes with a word of caution: letting your dog drink 5 gallons of your favorite natural pesticide is likely to have pretty dire consequences, just like it would with a synthetic product. Because...ALL pesticides are TOXIC.
Professor Pest Suggests:
Yes, all-natural products in their raw form may often have a comparatively lower level of mammalian toxicity than synthetic pesticides in their raw, concentrated form. However, this disparity can be mitigated by high quality personal protective equipment, application techniques, and application equipment. All pesticides are toxic. By using proper treatment strategies and following application instructions, the risk of exposure to any level of toxicity should be minimal.
Disadvantages of All-Natural Pesticides...
Lack of Regulation:Unlike synthetic pesticides which are subject to stringent oversight from the EPA and other state and federal regulatory agencies, all-natural pesticides are not regulated the same way. This lack of regulation can lead to heightened concerns with safety and effectiveness of all-natural pest control products.
Less Targeted Formulations:Among the many advantages of synthetic pesticides is that they are often scientifically formulated to have a very specific impact on a specific pest species or sub-species. This not only allows for a more targeted treatment approach, it also often minimizes the potential threat of exposure to non-target pest organisms. Pesticides comprised entirely of all-natural components are generally much less able to be modified in such a targeted manner.
Ineffective Applications:Because they are far less targeted, the treatment effects with all-natural pesticides are likely to be (generally speaking) slower and less consistent with less longevity that comparable synthetic products marketed for the same target pest. That is not to say, however, that all-natural pesticides don't work. All pesticides can, and under the right sets of circumstances, do work. But it is to say that the expectations associated with using all-natural pesticides might reasonably be lower.
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