Most of us, when spraying an indoor insecticide—whether combating roaches, ants or fleas—worry about its impact on our family’s health. If it kills bugs on contact, what’s it doing to us?

A study released this week in Pediatrics confirmed our worst fears, asserting that exposure during childhood to indoor insecticides raises a person's chances of developing cancer (bumping them up to a 47 percent and 43 percent increased risk for childhood leukemia and childhood lymphoma, respectively).

And this is just the indoor stuff. Outside, the use of weed-killing formulas was shown to accompany a 26% increase in a child’s risk of later developing a brain tumor. 

The takeaway from all this should not be fear, but action, according to the senior author of the study, Chensheng Lu, an associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He told the New York Times Well Blog that “risks can be managed as long as parents think, before using pesticides, about better ways to make a house pest-proof or pest-free.”

There are a bevy of non-toxic products available, as well as companies who use green pest and weed control methods. Check out for product-specific information, and for vendors in your area.

You can also make your own. According to Good Housekeeping magazine, you can kill even the hardiest of weeds with a splash of boiling water, a few layers of newspaper--even a handful of rock salt.

To banish fleas, wash dogs (but not cats) with citrus-spiked water, add apple cider vinegar to pets’ food, and use cedar products. And to control cockroaches, try boric acid or diatomaceous earth.

Do you have any natural pest control recipes?



  1. New York Times: “Pesticides Tied to Childhood Cancers”
  2. Good Housekeeping: “8 Homemade Weed Killers”