Careless application: The dated and dangerous practice of spraying baseboards


Pest control technician spraying baseboards

A savvy and successful Pest Expert will use as little chemical as possible to treat a problem. This is because they understand the preventable factors that contributed to the issue, where the most activity occurs, and understands taking corrective action means with the safety of others and the environment in mind. They also respect the seriousness of the laws surrounding their occupation. Since all technicians are bound by the pesticide label, any attempt to disregard it is against federal law. Labels contain all the pertinent information as to how the pesticide can be used in accordance with rules set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In fact, Pest Technicians must have the label attached to their pesticide containers at all times. This is to ensure that pesticides are being applied legally, from the pest its permitted to treat to the amount you are allowed to apply. Nevertheless, there are many cases in which pesticides are abused and misused, often by pest control companies looking to maximize profits, or by uneducated and poorly trained employees. With this in mind, this post intends to shed light on an outdated and dangerous method of pesticide application that is still in practice by some in the industry today. Not only does this treatment method violate most labels on the market, but it is also destructive, harmful, and wasteful in ways that should have you rethinking that DIY project or the current treatment methods of the pest control company you hired.


Pest control technician spraying baseboards

Known throughout the industry as “Baseboard Jockeying,” the practice of spraying the outside of baseboards is an outdated and poor practice of applying pesticides indoors. It is no longer accepted in the field of Pest Control. Still, some customers are convinced baseboard treatments work and will even request it. Many companies have been compelling in pitching this as an effective treatment method. It also provides customers with a visual effect that could illustrate that measures were taken to solve the problem. Most commonly this type of treatment is applied by using a steel or plastic pump sprayer, commonly used amongst exterminators, to spray long sections, and in most cases, the entire length of the baseboards. Years ago, baseboard treatments were common practice, but just as exterminator has become an outdated term, times have changed, and bringing about this change has been years of development in safer pesticides and more effective application methods. While pests may occasionally contact baseboards in your home or business, treating this location does not make sense when you consider the environment pests prefer and the path they took to get there.

Nearly all pest problems (99%) originate from outside of a structure and make their way in through small cracks and crevices of windows, gaps around pipes, and under the siding of structures. Taking control of the situation means applying pesticides in areas where insects pass and where they spend most of their time inside your home in greater numbers, which would occur in the small, dark, and inaccessible locations, for example, underneath or behind your baseboards, not on top of them. These are the areas insects reproduce and seek refuge, and in turn, is more effective in treating to eliminate the problem quickly and manage it long term.

There are several treatment methods designed for reaching pests where they reside, none of which include coating your baseboards, or what we refer to as a general surface application (fine for the exterior, not the interior). Crack and crevice, spot, and void treatments are all capable of meeting insects where they thrive. A crack and crevice treatment for example, dedicated to the entry and exit point of pests, is going to use considerably less pesticide and with greater effect than spraying 20 feet of your homes baseboards, or what is also known as the “spray and pray” technique, which results in very few insects affected. Crack and crevice would also have the added benefit of longevity, for pesticides placed in areas that are only accessible to insects means they are less disturbed, which will result in less pesticide used over time. General surface applications typically require more product given their exposure to a variety of elements. Pesticides applied to a general surface will deteriorate quicker, and worst of all, are more accessible by those to whom it was not designed to harm. This has two major impacts on the environment: excessive chemical application leads to pollution, but more concerning, it can cause personal harm to you and your loved ones.

Surface application to baseboards poses a major health threat to humans and animals, specifically to pets and the elderly, if inhaled, swallowed, or touched. A dog, for example, may decide to lie against the wall before the product has time to dry. Absorbing this chemical onto their coats can have serious consequences if it were to be licked, resulting in side effects such as loss of coordination and violent seizures (“Insecticide poisoning”, 2008). Short term side effects for people such as skin burns, dizziness, headaches, and impaired vision can be quick to appear and painful to experience if contact to pesticide is made, but long-term exposure to pesticides can result in more serious and permanent issues. Consistent weakness, development of cancerous cells, respiratory issues, and nerve damage, are all potential side effects derived from repetitive exposures (“Recognition and Management”, 2013). Elderly persons should practice extreme caution with touch. Since skin thins as we age, it is imperative we avoid direct contact with pesticides as they will absorb quickly into the body. Internal organs such as the liver and kidneys are less capable of breaking down and removing these pesticides when we’re older, leaving these toxins to absorb longer, resulting in the likelihood of severe injury (“Exploration of aging”, 2001). When you consider the time spent around or near treated surface areas of the home like baseboards, humans and pets have a much greater chance of exposure to chemical than insects as we live on the treated side.

General surface treatment of baseboards is a practice that should be defunct. This method was popular prior to the pesticide applicators’ understanding of what worked for pests. At that time there was also no education requirement of those in the industry on the danger and health impact that pesticides play on the world around us. Back then, products were significantly higher in toxicity, and we didn’t have the laws we do today that protect home and business owners, children, pets, and beneficial wildlife. While treating the interior of a home or business for pest problems sounds like a daunting task, there is a great success to be had with very limited risk in knowing your pests, placement, and products. It’s perfectly acceptable, and encouraged, for customers to ask their pest control company if the product they are using is intended for the pest they are using it for and the manner in which it is being applied. Any credible company will provide this information confidently. If service involves or recommends treating the baseboards, a simple inquiry and quick research of the product they intend to use should reveal whether they are attempting to break the law. Look out for general surface as acceptable for indoor use. If it isn’t listed or states that general surface is “outdoor only”, then it is illegal to apply to your baseboards.

Scott Hinesley

WSDA Licensed Pest Manager

References:

1. Masoro, E. J., & Schwartz, J. B. (2001). Exploration of aging and toxic response issues. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Risk Assessment Forum, EPA 630-R-01-003. Washington, DC.

2. Reigart, J. R., & J. R. Roberts. (2013). Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisoning; 6th edition. U.S. EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. Washington, DC.

3. Insecticide Poisoning in Dogs. (2008, November 12). PetMD. Retrieved February 7th from https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/neurological/c_multi_organophosphate_carbamate_toxicity

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