“The state of California has the power to ban a product based on the outcome of the reevaluation,” Weston said, “but I don’t think anyone is expecting that to occur. More likely there will be further regulations pertaining to the use of pyrethroids.”
Also, the EPA this year is reevaluating pyrethroids as part of its 2010 pesticide review. The EPA systematically evaluates all registered pesticides every 15 years. Potential outcomes include banning pyrethroids in certain areas, tightening policies or no change to the regulations. However, the EPA process will take another six to eight years.
In the meantime, there are some alternatives for consumers. Barr suggests products extracted from vegetables and herbs or planting chrysanthemums around the garden. Natural pyrethrins found in chrysanthemum plants do not persist in the environment like the synthetic versions do. Another option for killing some pests is boric acid.
Also, an insecticide called fipronil has partially replaced pyrethroids for controlling termite and ant infestations in some areas. Like pyrethroids, fipronil is far less toxic to birds and mammals than other insecticides, but can still kill small aquatic life.
Weston says switching to another chemical is not the solution: he believes people need to fundamentally change how they use pesticides. Many people apply so much to their yards and gardens that the chemicals flow into waterways.
“I think it’s a good idea to minimize pesticide exposure of any sort, not only because of what we know, but because of what we don’t know,” Weston said. “I don’t think a lot of those products are needed. The less you can use them, the better.”
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.