Pests are living things in the indoor and outdoor environment that can be harmful to property, public health, and quality of life. They include several types of insects, rodents such as rats and mice, weeds, fungi, viruses and bacteria. Pests can contaminate food, damage homes, and make allergies and asthma worse. Pesticides are frequently used to control pests but should only be used when necessary and as part of a comprehensive approach for managing pests.
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Preventing and Controlling Pests
Always use an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to get rid of pests. IPM is the safest and most effective way to manage pests. It includes learning about pests and frequently checking for and eliminating conditions that can cause or sustain them. It considers non-chemical methods first and if necessary the use of pesticides.
IPM focuses on preventing pests before they are a problem. Start by depriving pests of everything they need to survive: food, water, shelter, and ways to get around. Take these steps to prevent pests:
- Clean up. Keep surfaces clean and sweep and vacuum thoroughly. Reduce clutter and recycle piles of newspapers, cardboard and bottles.
- Shut pests out. Seal cracks and fill holes to keep pests out. Close gaps under doors and around windows. Repair holes in screens. To prevent bed bugs, avoid bringing bed frames, mattresses, box springs or upholstered furniture found on the street into your home. Always inspect for signs of bed bugs especially when purchasing used items.
- Starve them. Store food in sealed containers. Put food away at night and do not leave pet food out. Use garbage cans with tight fitting lids and remove garbage daily from your home. Take garbage to the curb close to pick up time. Remove standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Prevent pest access to water by fixing leaks and controlling moisture which will also help to prevent mold growth.
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Always consider carefully if you need to use a pesticide. Pesticides are substances mainly used to prevent, repel, or kill pests and should only be used when necessary and as part of an IPM program. They are often grouped according to the pests they target, e.g. rodenticide for controlling rats and mice, and insecticides for insects. They are also grouped by their chemical families such as organophosphates or pyrethroids.
Pesticides contain chemicals that can cause harm to people, other animals, and our environment and should only be used according to the label. Always read the pesticide label. It is your guide to using the pesticide safely and effectively. Exposure to pesticides can be reduced by following their label directions.
- Try safer pest control products first such as boric acid, gels, and baits for cockroaches, and glue traps or bait in enclosed tamper-proof containers for rodents.
- Avoid foggers, bombs, and sprays that spread chemicals throughout the home.
- Never use illegal pesticides.
- Contact the National Pesticide Information Center (1-800-858-7378) for more information on the use of pesticides.
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Protecting Children and Pets
When there is a need to use pesticides all safety precautions should be taken. Children and pets are especially vulnerable to becoming ill from harmful exposures to pesticides; children because they are still developing, and both children and pets because they are often on the floor. Other vulnerable groups include pregnant women and the elderly.
- Always read the pesticide label for safety precautions and use directions — never use more than recommended.
- Make sure children and pets are out of the room when pesticides are applied.
- Remove children’s toys and pet dishes from the area being treated.
- Follow directions on how to ventilate rooms (open windows and doors if possible) while pesticide is being applied and when it is safe to re-enter the treated area.
- Keep pesticides safely locked away when not in use to avoid poisonings. Never reuse empty pesticide containers.
The NYC Poison Control Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for treatment advice about exposures to poisons. Call anytime at 1-800-222-1222 or 212-POISONS (212-764-7667).
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Disposing of Pesticides
When it becomes necessary to use pesticides buy only what is needed. The New York City Sanitation Department Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling (DSNY) advises that small quantities can be discarded by wrapping them in several layers of newspaper, double bagging and disposing with the household garbage. Dry out any liquids with kitty litter, newspaper, other absorbent material before discarding as trash. Empty containers can be recycled as long as they are not marked “danger – corrosive. Never burn or pour pesticides down the drain or sewer.
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Choosing a Pest Management Company
If you need help getting rid of pests, contact a well-trained, licensed pest management professional whose company is registered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
- Find a company through dependable referrals, directories, professional associations and check to make sure they are registered.
- Interview several companies before choosing. Ask about their training, and approach in controlling pests.
- Agree on a service plan and cost. Look for value and not only on price. The cheapest services are rarely the best.
- Always keep the contact information of the company and that of the technician performing any preventive or control measures. Note the date and time for services and the name of any pesticide that is applied. State law requires that you are given a copy of the label.
- A good pest management company will:
- Discuss your pest problem and inspect your premises before quoting a price or begin any pesticide application.
- Give an inspection report, action plan of how pests will be prevented and controlled.
- Give you directions on how to prepare for any pesticide treatment such as removal of personal items, clearing kitchen counters, reducing clutter and how long to remain out of the treatment area.
- Employ well trained pest management professionals and provide supervision when necessary.
- Ensure that preventive measures are taken to protect against pesticide exposures.
- Treat you with respect and listen to your concerns.
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Pesticide use is regulated by federal, state, and local laws to reduce risks to public health and the environment.
Learn more about:
New York City Laws
New York State Laws
- Neighbor Notification Law (Local Law 36): Requires that commercial lawn pesticide applicators give neighbors written notice 48 hours before applying certain pesticides, and require that homeowners who use lawn pesticides post warning signs around their property.
- Pesticide Use by New York City Agencies (Local Law 37): Sets limitations on the use of pesticides by New York City agencies. It phases out the use of certain pesticides, institutes new recordkeeping and reporting procedures, and requires prior notice to the public before certain pesticide applications are made.
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Call 311 for additional information on managing pests or to report pest problems.
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