Pregnancy and fertility risks
There is some proof that exposure to pest-control products at levels commonly used at home poses some risk to the fetus, and pregnant women should avoid them. All insecticides are to some extent poisonous and some studies have suggested that high levels of exposure to pesticides may contribute to miscarriage, preterm delivery, and birth defects. Certain pesticides and other chemicals, including PCBs, have weak, estrogen-like qualities called endocrine disrupters that some scientists suspect may affect the development of the fetus’ reproductive system.
Treating your home with pesticides
You can reduce your exposure to pesticides by controlling pest problems with less toxic products such as boric acid (use the blue form available at hardware stores). If you must have your home or property treated with pesticides:
- Have someone else apply the chemicals and leave the area for the amount of time indicated on the package instructions.
- Remove food, dishes, and utensils from the area before the pesticide is applied. Afterward, have someone open the windows and wash off all surfaces on which food is prepared.
- Close all windows and turn off air conditioning, when pesticides are used outdoors, so fumes aren’t drawn into the house.
- Wear rubber gloves when gardening to prevent skin contact with pesticides.
Health care providers also have some concerns about the use of insect repellants during pregnancy. The insect repellant DEET (diethyltoluamide) is among the most effective at keeping bugs from biting; however, its safety during pregnancy has not been fully assessed. If you do use DEET, never apply it to your skin. Instead, place small amounts on your socks and shoes and outer clothes, using gloves or an applicator to avoid contact with your fingers.