Let me tell you my experience with pesticides and why I am totally against them now. I started in the pest industry in Florida in1972. We used to drive cars and not trucks and keep all the chemicals on the front seat next to us. They were toxic products such as DDT, chlordane, heptachlor, malathion and many others. When somebody called an exterminator for any pest, we went out, had them empty their kitchen cabinets and then we sprayed the cabinets with chlordane. Then we fogged the kitchen with an oil-based pyrethreum. Then we sprayed all the baseboards with malathion. We used malathion because it smelled bad and we didn’t want the customer to think we were spraying water. Then we dusted the attic with DDT dust and finally we put heptachlor granules all around the house. I have no idea how many people we made sick or killed doing what we did. I do know I saw a lot of pest technicians develop cancer and other sicknesses early in life, undoubtedly because of their exposure to pesticides. One time I got a call from a butcher shop in Miami. He had mice. We went in the shop while it was open and dusted the whole store with DDT. DDT got into everything and even on the customers. The owner was happy, and he paid the bill ($20). I used to crawl under houses and power spray the whole area with chlordane for termite control. Never wore a mask as safety equipment wasn’t required in those days. I have seen pest control people offer to spray people’s pets to kill fleas and ticks and some people approved that because they were told the pesticides are safe. All of this was typical pest control at the time. I asked my supervisor why we sprayed baseboards in homes. He said we had to make people think they are getting their money’s worth. That was the only reason and it is the only reason it is done now.
I left Florida and moved to Houston, Texas in 1975. It was the same there. We practiced mosquito control in Houston. We often just drove down the streets at night and fogged malathion all over the place. One time we got a call from the Houston Astrodome about mosquitoes inside and they had a game scheduled that night. We went out and sprayed the whole interior of the astrodome with malathion to kill the mosquitoes. We got a call a few days later about people coughing and not feeling good and they wanted to know if it was the pesticide. Our manager told them it couldn’t be, because malathion only affects bugs. He said it must have been pollen or something. It was about this time that I was starting to get a little concerned about the industry I was in. I didn’t want to leave because pests can be a problem, but there had to be better ways to deal with them. My wife Sandi and I moved to Albuquerque in 1978. I went to work for another pest control company, and another, and another because they were all in the same mindset, spray and pray. Spray pesticides and pray you kill something. I was trying to get away from that. I finally got away from the pest companies and went to work for UNM as their IPM technician in 1995 and all I did was non-toxic pest management and the university loved it.
The fact is that pesticides have been misused for many years and in many cases, they still are. If a company is just spraying the baseboards in a house it is a gimmick, as is just spraying around the outside. Who cares how many praying mantids, other insects or birds they kill? Nobody will notice is their theory. Mosquito spraying is still very common and just as dangerous and just as useless as it has always been, and they use pesticides now that are more toxic than malathion.
Some companies have gotten away from generic pest spraying and have adopted safer methods. Unfortunately, many companies are still in that spray and pray mindset. It is sad when government agencies adopt these nonsensical methods and use them in public areas. Mosquito spraying from airplanes, spraying toxic pesticides on private property to kill some “terrorist” insects and using toxic herbicides everywhere because it is easier than using safe and effective methods. Of course, that is nonsense. When I was IPM Manager for the City of Santa Fe, we never used Roundup on weeds and I personally took care of 81 city buildings for pests and never used a drop of pesticide. Everyone loved it.
We have to work with government agencies to get them to quit using dangerous methods and we have got to stop using pest control companies that practice spray and pray methods in and around our homes. I will help anyone I can to manage their pests safely and effectively. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no charge for my consultations.