A June 2009 EPA Fact Sheet found that seniors may be more vulnerable to the effects of exposure of pesticides because of the manner in which the human body changes how it processes chemicals with old age.

Yet, the EPA fact sheet reported, eight out of ten households in the nation use pesticides both indoors and outdoors. Common examples include cockroach sprays and baits, termite control products, rat poison, flea and tick sprays and powders, weed killers, bug sprays and kitchen and bath disinfectants.

High levels of exposure to pesticides, in part due to improper use, may lead to such effects as headaches, dizziness, muscle twitching, weakness and nausea. Long-term and excessive exposure leads to the development of chronic disease such as cancer, reproductive health impairment and detrimental effects on the brain and neurological system.
Hospital emergency room research found that children under age 6 are more likely to be poisoned when visiting grandparents where poisons are in reach and without childproof closures. While seniors made up less than 3 percent of poisoning incidents, they were twice as likely as children and younger adults to die from household chemical exposure.

As a consequence of these incidents, the EPA advises seniors to take precaution in using pesticides or cleaning products. Seniors are told to keep products in the containers they originated from, read the labels and follow all warnings, use the products only in the problem areas of their homes, get rid of all products by following all label instructions, leave all doors and windows open, utilize proper ventilation, use outdoor and indoor products appropriately and wash hands after use.

The EPA also recommends that seniors use an “integrated pest management” strategy for control of pests in homes and apartment buildings. The strategy combines non-chemical control methods with less poisonous pesticides to decrease risk to human health and the environment. As an example, seniors may use traps, baits and gels instead of sprays to control pests.

The agency states that, in the case of an emergency, seniors ought to see a doctor immediately for headaches, dizziness, muscle twitches, nausea or weakness, call their public water supplier for drinking water quality reports and enlist certified abatement professionals to remove lead paint from walls.

Part Six: Solutions By Government Agencies, Nonprofits

This article was originally published Feb. 18, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.