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    "Ask the Bugman" - food grade diatomaceous earth used on burrowing animals

    Diatomaceous earth safer to use than deltamethrin

    Richard Fagerlund
    San Francisco Chronicle July 27, 2011 04:00 AM

    Ask The Bugman
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    Q: We manage a country club and have a problem with burrowing animals. We don't necessarily want to kill the animals, but we suspect they have fleas, which could affect our visitors. We contacted a pest control company that wants to treat the burrows with a product containing deltamethrin. Is this safe to use?
    L.R., Santa Barbara
    A: If they have to use something to kill the fleas, they need to use something that is safe for people as well as the animals involved. Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) pumped into the burrows would effectively kill any insects or mites but not harm the animals or any humans in the vicinity. The same can't be said for deltamethrin, the product they intend to use.
    Cornell University Cooperative Extension's Pesticide Management Education Program posts the following on its website,
    "Physical signs of deltamethrin poisoning can include dermatitis after skin contact; exposure to sunlight can make it worse. Severe swelling of the face including lips and eyelids can occur. Symptoms and consequences of poisoning include: sweating, fever, anxiety and rapid heartbeat.
    "Acute exposure effects in humans include the following: ataxia, convulsions leading to muscle fibrillation and paralysis, dermatitis, edema, diarrhea, dyspnea, headache, hepatic microsomal enzyme induction, irritability, peripheral vascular collapse, rhinorrhea, serum alkaline phosphatase elevation, tinnitus, tremors, vomiting and death due to respiratory failure. Allergic reactions have included the following effects: anaphylaxis, bronchospasm, eosinophilia, fever, hypersensitivity pneumonia, pallor, pollinosis, sweating, sudden swelling of the face, eyelids, lips and mucous membranes, and tachycardia.
    "A health survey of 199 workers who repacked pyrethroid insecticides into boxes by hand indicated that about two-thirds of the workers had a burning sensation and tightness and numbness on the face, while one-third had sniffs and sneezes. Abnormal sensations in the face, dizziness, tiredness and red rashes on the skin were more common in summer than in winter."
    Why would we ever want to use something as insidious as deltamethrin in public areas? The product they want to use contains a number of inert ingredients as well as the active ingredient. The inert ingredients aren't required to be listed (trade secrets, or so they say) on the label and many of them are untested. Also, many have been tested and are suspected carcinogens. We don't know which inert ingredients are in the product the pest control company plans to use.
    Food-grade DE is 100 percent natural and does not contain any inert ingredients. It is effective and much safer than deltamethrin.
    Richard Fagerlund promotes the least toxic methods of pest control. Go to or e-mail comments to [email protected].
    This article appeared on page E - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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