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Toxic Thursdays: Household Insecticides, Herbicides Linked to Childhood Cancer

The Environmental Working Group recently announced new research that shows a connection between pesticide use in and around the home and childhood illnesses, including leukemia. (Link to EWG article:

The article discussed in the study, done by Harvard researchers, points to “evidence that children’s exposure to household insecticides is linked to higher risks of childhood leukemia and lymphoma, the most common cancers in children. The analysis also found an association between use of outdoor herbicides to lawns and gardens and higher risks of leukemia.”

This is extremely concerning. Children are more susceptible to many chemicals because their bodies are smaller and even low doses of chemicals may have a larger impact on them.

Avoiding Chemicals

There are ways to avoid herbicides and insecticides in and around your home.

If you have ants indoors, instead of breaking out the insecticide and spraying the edges of your kitchen countertops and floors (which children can easily come into contact with), try using non-toxic alternatives.

First, clean up messes and store food in airtight containers where it will be less likely to tempt pests. Try using a mixture of vinegar and water with a few drops of essential oil like cinnamon or tea tree to clean countertops and floors. Pests may not like the spicy smell! (More information from Healthy Child Healthy World here:

When I was in college, my roommates left out a bunch of food and then went out of town for the weekend. When I returned there were ants everywhere! After cleaning up the mess, the ants were still coming in. I guess the ant scouts had informed the entire tribe about the party! I tried to trace back to where they were coming in and put down dryer sheets. Ants do not like the smell or feel of dryer sheets and it did seem to help! Obviously that is a temporary fix, but it can help stem the tide of ants moving in.

Outside, it can be tempting to use Round-Up on your lawn to get rid of pesky weeds. You may also like to use lawn fertilizer to achieve that perfectly green yard. However, both of these contribute to pollution in our waterways and can harm our children. Please consider non-toxic yard solutions.

Treehugger, one of my favorite sites, offers plenty of non-toxic and earth-friendly solutions here:

Try making your own homemade herbicide by combining white vinegar, salt, and some essential oil like clove oil. This can help keep weeds at bay, but may require multiple doses. Borax – yes, your grandmother’s Borax – can also be used!

The bottom line is, when you find yourself reaching for a chemical spray, think twice. Try some alternatives and see what works for you!


What alternatives have you tried and have they worked well for you? Share in the comments!



For more information on the Harvard study, which will be published in Pediatrics magazine in October, go to:

Rachel Mavity

Rachel Mavity

Rachel Mavity is the Digital Communications Coordinator with Beebe Healthcare's Marketing and Communications Department. On Toxic Thursdays, she writes about saving the earth and ways to reduce our footprint. She also now blogs over at Be Real on this site.