Is your pest control solution sustainable?

Learn more at the National Healthy Homes Conference
Mar 20, 2014 12:20 PM ET

Can pest control be sustainable? The short answer is yes. But the proof is not found in a spray. The pest management industry is willing to do their part in pest management programs that pose the least risk to people, property, and the environment which use an approach called integrated pest management—IPM.

It doesn’t take a pesticide applicator’s license to practice IPM. In fact, part of the integrated approach is teaching everyone in a building what they can do to prevent pests. Pest management professionals are increasingly involved in training housekeeping staff, food service workers, social workers, and property managers. Pests need a way into a building and access to food, water, and hiding spots. The people who live, work, learn, and play in a building are the first line of defense against pests. Want to prevent mice? Make sure door sweeps are on exterior doors. Flies in your kitchen? Check for doors that are propped open during the day. Maintaining an intact building envelope is one way you can move your pest control from reactive to proactive. Proactive is more sustainable for both your bottom line and the environment.

Pest management can also be incorporated into the design phase of a building. For example, slope smooth-surfaced window ledges and projections at 45° or more to minimize bird perching and roosting. How is this sustainable pest management? Think of the long-term impact of bird nesting and droppings on your building and business.

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Unfortunately, pests are very good at using our resources. IPM programs emphasize routine inspection and monitoring so that invasions are located, identified, and responded to quickly. Once confirmed, IPM practitioners integrate multiple control strategies to eliminate the pest. Those who take a sustainable approach to pest management, see traps, vacuum cleaners, heat, and pesticides as equally important tools. IPM practitioners select the best strategy for each pest problem—scaling the response to the level of infestation. These professionals balance the risk of each control method with the risk of the infestation.

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In addition to sustainability, IPM is critical for public health. The frequent hospital admissions of inner-city children with asthma often is directly related to their contact with pest allergens—the substances that cause allergies. From 23% to 60% of urban residents with asthma are sensitive to the cockroach allergen. (Source: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America) A 2013 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology concluded that community-level asthma interventions in Baltimore should prioritize reducing mouse allergen exposure.

Pest-Free is one of the seven principles of a healthy home, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Since 2008, the StopPests in Housing Program has been working with affordable housing communities to implement IPM programs through their free consultation and training program.

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Pest control deserves a spot in the (CFL- or LED-generated) limelight. Integrated pest management offers sustainable solutions to the pest problems that threaten people and properties around the world. I’ll present on IPM in the three sessions mentioned above at the upcoming National Healthy Homes Conference. Join HUD, Rebuilding Together, HGTV and the DIY Network and myself, plus other other healthy housing professionals in Nashville May 28-30 for my full presentations and 120+ other sessions!

Allison Taisey, BCE is the Project Coordinator for the StopPests in Housing Program. The Northeastern IPM Center receives support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, NIFA to facilitate the StopPests Program. Contact: or @taiseybug