Some older residents put at risk by pesticide spraying

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Recently, I got a call from a lady in poor health. She is living in a Bernalillo County housing unit. Apparently, there are several apartment-like places that are rented out to low-income older people.

This lady has health issues, yet the manager insisted she have a pest control company spray her apartment for roaches, even though she doesn’t have any bugs. She is allergic to pesticides. She wouldn’t let the pest guy in and the manager was furious and said she would be responsible for any roaches in the area and would be evicted. This is all total nonsense. I am mentioning this in the paper because this may well be going on in every county in New Mexico.

There are a lot of facilities in New Mexico that provide homes to the elderly and other low-income people. Most of them aren’t aware the danger they are in when someone comes in and sprays pesticides on the baseboards, all of the carpets and the window sills like that person does in the facility mentioned above. The last time I inspected an apartment complex, I told management that they could control the roaches by making sure all of the plumbing is sealed where it goes into walls under the sinks and by telling the occupants to keep their drains closed at night. They also had to install door sweeps on some doors. It worked. Nobody has complained of bugs and they didn’t have to use a pest control company to spray the baseboards. They are happy and the occupants are not in any danger from the chemicals.

No need for liquid pesticides

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There are no pests, with the exception of termites, that require liquid pesticides to be sprayed for control. Any good pest control company would be using safe and effective products that won’t hurt people or pets. Only companies that don’t know any better, and are probably in the wrong business, would spray any liquid synthetic pesticide in any building that is occupied by people. This includes apartments, such as is the issue here, and it includes any commercial building, any school and even any home. What happens if this lady gets sick and dies in a few weeks or months? They will just say she was old and died of natural causes.

Synthetic pesticides in liquid form are not safe in any situation. A few months ago, a pest control person was spraying herbicides near a school building and didn’t close the windows. Over 40 children had to go to the hospital. There are numerous stories like this. If someone wants to use pesticides for termite control, that is fine. If they want to come in your house to spray for roaches or any other pests, do not let them in.

Check with the Rio Rancho school district and make sure they don’t allow the spraying of pesticides in any school building. A nationwide report has found that pesticide use in or near U.S. schools has sickened more than 2,500 children and school employees over a five-year period. The poisonings resulted from pesticides being sprayed in schools or on nearby properties, and included both insecticides and herbicides.

Study finds cancer risk

According to an article in Epidemiology: 12 (1):20-26, January 2001, one of the largest studies of pesticides has found that pesticide use around the home can more than double the chance of a child developing neuroblastoma, which is a condition that accounts for about 10 percent of all childhood tumors. This is a very serious cancer as approximately 60 percent of children over age 1 who develop neuroblastoma do not live three years even when receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

A similar study in “Cancer: 89: 11, 2000” has shown that children who have been exposed to household insecticides and professional extermination methods within the home are three to seven times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma compared to children who have not been exposed to pesticides.

These two articles clearly demonstrate why we should never allow pesticides in schools or day-care centers.

We certainly should not allow pesticides in any hospitals, nursing homes or medical facilities for obvious reasons. If any medical facility uses a pest company that sprays pesticides in its facility, it should consider hiring another company. And all city, county and state agencies should not allow liquid pesticides to be used in any of their buildings unless there is an emergency, and they are rare. There are plenty of safe and effective methods to control pests. Hire companies that know what they are doing, not the spray-and-pray crowd. “Spray pesticides and pray you kill something”.

If you have any pest questions, I will be happy to help you. Contact me at

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