There has been a marketing shift in the pest control industry toward the term “natural” when describing the chemicals used spray homes for common insects or fog entire municipalities.

What this new messaging doesn’t tell you is that “natural” doesn’t mean safe; and, in the majority of cases, “natural” doesn’t even mean natural.

The Big Difference Between “Natural” and Safe

“Pyrethrum” is a general term that describes either 1.) natural pyrethrins — insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers; or 2.) synthetic pyrethroids — man-made compounds that are widely used and marketed as “natural pesticides. So, while some of these pesticides might be more “natural” than others, all of them can pose serious health concerns for the people and pets in your home. Let’s look at each of these a little more closely.

Pyrethrins – Natural but toxic

Pyrethrins are natural insecticides produced by extracting the oils within chrysanthemum flowers with solvents or sometimes they are dried and powdered. Though natural, pyrethrins are contact poisons which penetrate the nerve system of the insect rather quickly.  Within a few minutes of application, affected insects cannot move or fly away.

The problem with Pyrethrins (from a pest control standpoint) is the fact that a “knockdown dose” does not mean a killing dose. The natural pyrethrins are quickly detoxified by enzymes in the insect, so many pests will recover from paralysis. So, the truly natural compound of the group isn’t that good at eliminating most insects.

That doesn’t mean it’s safe though, among other things, the EPA classified pyrethrins as “likely to be human carcinogen”.  So, let’s check out the more toxic members of the family.

Pyrethroids – Synthetic but marketed as natural

To ensure that the natural pyrethrins will indeed be lethal to insects instead of just stunning them, pesticide companies add toxic compounds such as organophosphates, carbamates, or synergists to create a synthetic pyrethrin called a pyrethroid. This is where “natural” becomes “not so natural” — and highly toxic!

Permethrin, for example is used in hundreds of household products ranging from human lice shampoo to spot-on flea controls to indoor and outdoor sprays and foggers. Because it is marketed as natural, some of these products even achieve organic certification. The problem with Permethrin is the fact that it’s a neurotoxin and classified by the EPA as a known carcinogen. It is more toxic to children than adults and has been shown in tests to cause chromosome aberrations in humans and inhibit activity of the immune system.

A widespread problem that’s getting worse

Sounds terrible, right? What’s worse is the fact that it’s applied more than 100 million times a year in and around U.S. homes. No matter what your vet or pest control company tells you, these are not “safe”, natural products. They are neurotoxic poisons that cause serious health problems for humans, animals, birds, and aquatic life.

As exposure increases to these “natural” pesticides, so do the serious side effects to humans. The Center for Public integrity recently reported, “An analysis of EPA data by the Center for Public Integrity shows that the number of reported human health problems, including severe reactions, attributed to pyrethrins and pyrethroids increased by 300% over the past decade,” and found that “pyrethrins and pyrethroids together accounted for more than 26% of all fatal, “major” and “moderate” human incidents in the United States in 2007″.

The Solution

There are truly natural and safe pest control solutions out there. We prefer our own Wondercide products because they are made without synthetic chemicals, contain no toxins and (most importantly) they actually work.

Learn more about the Wondercide solution »

Fact Sheets of Commonly used Pesticides:

Permethrin active in hundreds of products for pets, people, property

Pyrethrin & Pyrethrum active in hundreds of products for pets, people, property

Fipronil active in Frontline, Combat, Termidor, Regent, Maxforce

Imidacloprid active in Advantage, Merit, Pre-empt, Premise

Glyphosate active in Roundup

Malathion active in City, State, Federal Mosquito Control Programs

Sulfometuron active in Oust: used on right of ways, roadsides, public land

DEET active in personal Insect Repellents

Boric Acid Powder and Dust