Even against your cat's cockroaches or fleas, insecticides must be used with care, warns the health agency Anses, which publishes an unpublished photograph of the widespread use of household pesticides.
In the midst of the controversy over the minimum distance between homes and areas where chemical plant protection products are applied, the Anses draws attention to another potential source of exposure to these potentially toxic products: the home. This field study called Pesti'HomeThe study, started in 2014 among 1,500 households in metropolitan France to have a better assessment of exposures and potential health risks, reveals that 75% of them have used at least one pesticide in the previous 12 months.
And this "widespread" use is far from being limited to the care of plants. For example, 61% of pet owners (representing almost half of the sample) treat their cat, dog or rabbit against fleas and ticks.
On the other hand, 40% households use biocides against flying insects and 28% against crawling insects, 12% use body repellents against insects such as mosquito repellents, 9% products against rodents, 7% against human lice, 4% against mites.
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Chemical plant protection products are obviously not absent: 20% of outdoor space holders, for example, use products against plant diseases. But for gardening uses, users are generally more cautious, reading the instructions and respecting them better.
"70% of people with garden products report following the use precautions. They are more aware of pesticides used in the garden, because it is talked about a lot in the public debate," Jean-Luc Volatier, risk assessment assistant at Anses, told AFP.
Forgetting precautions for use
The figure is similar for lice solutions. However, only just over a third of private individuals follow the rules of caution with products against flying insects.
However, "they are the same molecules," insists Jean-Luc Volatier. "For example, pyrethroids, which are the most widely used, can be used against cockroaches or ants, but also in the garden or to protect pets from fleas.
The French don't know enough about job precautions. "We don't always think about them, but it's important because they are not harmless products," insists the expert. For example, about a third of households never read the indications on the packaging for anti-mite and anti-rodent products and a quarter of them never read them for products against flying and crawling insects. On the other hand, while the majority of households follow the use precautions when using products to treat outdoor plants (70%) or louse control products (68%), only 29% follow them when using repellents, and 36% for products against flying insects.
These precautions, which are sometimes "written in slightly small letters on the packaging", are different from one product to another. Wash your hands after use, wear gloves or even a protective mask, leave the room after spraying...
Vigilance is even more necessary for pregnant women or children who, for example, do not have to sleep with their cat or dog just treated with an anti-parasite pipette.
For these vulnerable people, the manager of the Anses refers them to the website agir-pour-bébé.fr which gives some keys to make their housing healthier.
A first step
This report is "a first step", but it needs to be "quickly supplemented by a better assessment of real exposures and risks", commented François Veillerette, from the NGO Future Generations.
"Above all, the government must show consistency and initiate a proactive policy to reduce the use of domestic pesticides and promote their alternatives," as in the case of agriculture, he added.
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Another problem revealed by the survey was that a quarter of the households had on their shelves pesticides that had sometimes been purchased long before but then banned. And it is possible that this proportion is even higher today: chemical plant protection products used in gardening have been completely banned for private individuals since 1 January 2019.
This poses even more acutely another problem raised by Pesti'Home: 60% of the French throw in the trash the unused or expired products that should be brought to the waste disposal.
"Throwing these products in the trash or in the sink can be problematic from an environmental and health point of view," emphasizes Jean-Luc Volatier.
The Pesti'home study provides knowledge on the real daily use of pesticides in the home. This information is essential to better evaluate the exposures and the potential risks for the health of the populations and to identify in particular the cumulative exposures to chemical substances.
The data collected have already been used to guide indoor air measurement campaigns and population impregnation studies (measurements in blood, hair, urine) and will help interpret their results.
At the end of 2019, all Pesti'home data will be accessible via an open data platform and can thus be used in the framework of research and evaluation work on the exposure of the population to pesticides. In addition, the results of Pesti'home will be shared at the European level in order, in particular, to refine human and environmental exposure models as well as the planned conditions of use of biocidal products for domestic use.