Lia Nakagawa, who was the lead author, noted that pyrethroids -- a common pesticide used to repel flies, mosquitoes, bedbugs, lice, and wasps -- displayed different breakdown mechanisms in lab and test environments. To test this theory, she and her team ran concurrent experiments, with one done in a controlled laboratory and the other in a test house. The team observed that the pesticides used in the controlled environment broke down more quickly compared to the test house scenario. In fact, Nakagawa saw that a scary 70 percent of cypermethrin, a pyrethroid pesticide, was evident in 90 percent of the homes based on dust samples collected from houses after one year.
Several key takeaways were recorded:
Nakagawa and her team concluded that further research is necessary to effectively determine the precise relationship and distinction between pesticide application in both lab and real-life situations and their potential health effects.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes more than 3,500 registered insecticides whose main ingredients are either pyrethrins or pyrethroids. As the use of organophosphate pesticides declined, this “safer” alternative flourished. The chemicals have been studied to be less toxic to birds and mammals.
Pyrethrins are botanical insecticides derived from chrysanthemum which alter brain function in insects, leading to their eventual death. On the other hand, pyrethroids are synthetic chemical insecticides which mimic the chemical structures of pyrethrins and act in a similar manner. Pyrethroids have been modified for better stability in sunlight.
Health groups have stated that both pyrethrins and pyrethroids are not toxic to animals or humans, but can cause some side effects such as coughing and shortness of breath. Nevertheless, these conclusions were based on short-term exposure to the substance and did not evaluate that potential hazards of chronic persistence. A fact sheet released by the National Pesticide Telecommunication Network (NPTN) did caution the public that “effects of pyrethrins on human health and the environment depend on how much pyrethrins are present and the length and frequency of exposure. Effects also depend on the health of a person and/or certain environmental factors.”
There are ways to limit your exposure to common insecticides and decrease your risk of developing any disease or illness. Listed below are some steps to consider, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR):
Severe pyrethrin or pyrethroid exposure can be detected in blood and urine only after a few days after your last exposure. Unfortunately, these tests are not usually available at most local clinics.