Pesticides are toxic substances designed to kill or repel pests. In addition to being harmful to pests, they can cause acute symptoms in humans, including nausea, headaches, rashes, and dizziness. Many are also linked to chronic diseases and conditions such as cancer, birth defects, neurological and reproductive disorders, and to the development of chemical sensitivities.
Most people have no idea that the majority of health care institutions use chemical pesticides on a regular basis, both inside and outside of their facilities. People generally visit health care facilities because their health is already being affected in some way. They may have compromised immune, neurological, and respiratory systems that put them at increased risk of suffering harmful effects from pesticide exposure.
The elderly, pregnant women, chemically sensitive individuals, infants, and children are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of pesticides.
A method of pest control called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) eliminates or greatly reduces the use of hazardous pesticide products.
IPM is an approach to pest management that focuses on preventing and managing pest problems — both inside and outside a health care facility — through nontoxic methods, such as improved sanitation and structural maintenance, mechanical and biological controls, and cultural practices.
IPM prevents pest problems by reducing or eliminating sources of pest food, water, and shelter; blocking pest entry into buildings; and maintaining healthy soil and plants. Chemical pesticides are used only as a last resort and preference is given to the least-toxic pesticide that will accomplish the job. On the rare occasion that a toxic pesticide is used, ample notification is given to staff, patients, and the public.