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Pesticide Odors

By Chris Williams on August 15, 2011.

Q. I cancelled my quarterly service with another pest control company because the smell of the stuff they used made me sick. Do you use anything less toxic?

A. Actually, the odor of a pesticide has nothing to do with how toxic it is. But many people do associate odor with toxicity. They feel that the stronger the smell, the more toxic and the more potentially hazardous the pesticide.

When exposed to strong odors of any kind, some people have negative reactions. It seems that, as a nation, we have become much less tolerant of invasive smells like the perfume of the woman who works in the next cubicle. People exposed to certain smells complain of headaches, nausea, breathing difficulties, mood changes, and fatigue.

Can odor cause illness? Or are these symptoms all in the head? We know that people vary greatly in their ability to detect odors. And we know that some people react more strongly to odors that they consider to be “disagreeable.”

Some people, though do have real physical reactions after pesticide applications. In most cases, it’s the inert (nontoxic) ingredients in the product, not the toxin itself, that cause the odors. When these various carriers or “volatile organic compounds” become airborne, they can trigger conditions such as headache or asthma in susceptible people.

Fortunately, pest control has come a long way since the good old days when the standard service was a baseboard spray of a (usually) smelly insecticide. Today, pest control can often be accomplished without pesticides at all. When pesticides are necessary, we have options such as nonvolatile baits or gels,  or very low odor sprays and dusts. Odors are  kept to a minimum, too, by applying pesticides only into cracks and crevices or into voids rather than general sprays to large areas. The post-treatment complaints of “that smell,” are much less frequent.

If you’re avoiding necessary pest control service because of worries about the smell, give Colonial a call. We provide pest removal services in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. We can come up with treatment options that will make you comfortable.

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