Are all organic pest control products non-toxic to humans? Who regulates all natural organic pest control chemicals? In this article we’ll get to the truth about organic pesticide regulations. Also we’ll look at a few examples of all natural pesticides and when you should and shouldn’t use them.
Does All Natural Equal Non-Toxic?
We consider toxic substances anything that can cause harm by ingestion, inhalation or absorption through the skin. Medically, toxic substances are known as poisons.
Acute Toxicity vs. Chronic Toxicity
It’s important to distinguish what kind of toxicity we’re trying to limit by using organic pest control. Many homeowners are afraid pesticides will make them sick, burn their skin, or irritate their eyes. These are examples of acute toxic effects. Acute toxicity refers to sort term injury or harm resulting from the ingestion, inhalation or absorption through the skin.
Other folks seek organic pest control products because they’re worried the long term effects of pesticides. Chronic effects refer to carcinogenicity, mutagenicity & teratogenicity or other ailments that develop over time. People who don’t regularly handle pesticides are not likely to experience chronic health effects.
All Natural Spider Control Example
Let’s say you are completely overrun with spiders in and around your home. You want organic all natural pest control because you’re concerned for the safety of yourself and your small dog.
The Dose Makes The Poison
The plant nursery sells you an organic pesticide spray called “Best Spider Repellent”. Which contains 2.5% thyme oil and a few other natural ingredients. It was advertised as all natural, so you’re good to go right?
Using All Natural Spider Repellents Outdoors
Your “Best Spider Repellent” is probably going to be somewhat helpful for repelling spiders outdoors. The thyme oil is full of volatile organic compounds like thymol that repel spiders and can kill them on contact. You will have some spider control relief directly after you spray outdoors. In the breeze over a few days or weeks these VOC’s will vaporize and drift away faster than indoors.
Using All Natural Spider Repellents Indoors
Now you’re thinking “I’ll just apply my organic all natural spider repellent inside along my baseboards.” So you spray about ten fluid ounces of the 2.5% thyme oil solution along the baseboards. You spray a little in your basement, living room and bedroom where you’ve seen spiders.
At 2.5 percent, spraying ten ounces of thyme oil solution, you release about a quarter ounce of pure thyme oil into your home. The odor may surprise you. As the natural chemicals volatilize and evaporate they will repel spiders but also may repel you and your family. Just a quarter ounce of pure thyme oil sprayed indoors is equivalent to about 15 aromatherapy sessions at once.
Some essential oil products that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consider 25(b) exempt are over 20% thyme oil.
Importantly, neither the EPA or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates organic essential oils labeled for use in aromatherapy or other non- food, medicine, cosmetic, or pesticide usage.
What is Lethal Dose 50 (LD50)?
We measure lethal doses by measuring the substance’s concentration that is lethal (usually orally) to 50% of the affected population. The oral LD50 of pure thyme oil is 2840 milligrams per kilogram. So for an 80kg (176lbs) adult person, 227,200 mg of pure thyme oil would kill half that drank it. And that’s almost exact 8 ounces or a whole cup. But it seems unlikely an adult could physically consume that much thyme oil. Nevertheless, all natural pesticides have the potential to be toxic.
Specifically, a 22% thyme oil product permitted for use in organic agriculture is more hazardous. Thus, a ten ounce bottle of 22% thyme oil contains 2.2 ounces of pure thyme oil. This amount could potentially be lethal if somehow ingested completely by a 48 pound dog.
Natural Pesticide Regulations
The EPA considers most organic pest control products with all natural ingredients 25(b) exempt. The same testing and registration regulations as EPA registered pesticides do not apply to 25(b) exempt products. Some of these active ingredients appear on the FDA “GRAS” (Generally Regarded As Safe) list. This means that they are commonly used in food products. However, some natural, organic active ingredients appear on the EPA’s TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) list.
Furthermore, the USDA National Organic Program oversees the use of some of these products in certified organic farms.
Minimum Risk Pesticides
Thus we often refer to 25(b) products as “minimum risk pesticides”. The EPA does not regulate minimum risk pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) as it does registered pesticides. For the most part we consider minimum risk pest control products to be generally safe for humans & wildlife.
Choosing The Best Organic Pest Control Product
Always do your research on your target pest. So you will be most prepared to make an effective Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy. By using IPM, you’ll identify any solutions for your garden or household pest that prevents pesticide usage.
For some uses, minimal risk or organic pest control products may be appropriate. Use caution as with any pesticide. Sometimes EPA registered pesticides are more appropriate for certain persistent pest issues like household ant & rat control. Unfortunately nature doesn’t provide the exact chemicals we rely on for acceptable levels of control of Portland rats and ants. Nevertheless, using IPM to control rats & ants will ensure safety for people, pets, and pollinators if used consciously & cautiously. Alternatively, for spiders there are a multitude of effective all natural pest control products available for your IPM strategy.
To get a customized IPM strategy for your Portland rodent, spider or ant control issue, don’t hesitate to call. We have the ecological restoration & IPM experience to get rid of pests. While safely managing any hazard to people, pets and pollinators.