Pesky insecticides

By Sheryl Kay • Published: October 9th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Even after years of scrubbing and mopping, it appears some kitchen floors just won’t come clean… especially when it comes to hiding traces of dangerous insecticides.

In a yearlong study, scientists with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development collected data on a wide variety of household contaminants.

By collecting samples with surface wipes from five-hundred kitchen floors, researchers looked at a smorgasbord of nasty toxins including lead, allergens, mold, pesticides and arsenic.

Researchers found a veritable chemical soup. The insecticide permethrin [per-METH-rin] appeared on eighty-nine percent of the floors. Listed as a human carcinogen, it is commonly used as a flea killer for dogs and is toxic to fish and cats. The insect killer chlorpyrifos [klôr-PIR’u-fos] was found on seventy-five percent of the of the floors, even though it has been restricted from household use since 2001.

And chlordane [KLOR-dane] and some organochlorine [or-ga-noh-KLOR-een] insecticides that have been banned for more than twenty years were found on more than half of the floors.

About seventy-eight million U.S. households use pesticides and Americans spend nearly $1.3 billion on the products annually, according to a national home and garden survey.

The good news is that the concentration of the insecticides found on kitchen floors was relatively low and appeared to pose no immediate danger.

But the researchers said that a more in-depth study would be needed to assess long-term health effects.

In the meantime, we can at least chalk the information up as another good reason to disregard the “five-second rule” whenever food falls to the floor.