How often are general household products bought without reading and understanding the label? Even if a product appears to be safe, do you know what dangers could develop, should they be used or mixed with other product that may seem safe by themselves? When you look to buy anything, read product labels and look for these signal words; danger, warning, or caution. These federally mandated words indicate the degree of immediate hazard posed by the product. Generally, danger indicates that a product is extremely hazardous, either because it is poisonous, extremely flammable or corrosive. Warning or caution indicate products that are somewhat less hazardous. Products listing no signal words are usually the least hazardous, or at least are suppose to be.

Many of the items that we use frequently can sometimes cause more problems than they’re worth, especially when extra precautions aren’t taken. Following is listed just a few of the everyday household items that can generally be found in most homes and the potential hazards they can cause. Some of them just may surprise you.


Solvent based glues and adhesives are potentially the most hazardous, as they are extremely flammable or explosive. They may be irritating to the skin, eyes and lungs, or may be corrosive and cause burns to the skin and eyes. Narcotic, possibly fatal when inhaled in high concentrations, or for a bulldog sitting at the feet of someone using the glue, fatal when inhaled in moderate to low concentrations.


For gluing wood, china, paper and other porous materials, white or yellow carpenter’s glues are the least toxic.

For gluing book pages or paper, paste or a glue stick is safer than rubber cement.

For pasting up art work for publication, use a waxer with paraffin. For mounting photos, use dry mounting tissues.

Air fresheners/deodorizers. The more common hazardous ingredients are formaldehyde, isobutane, methylene chloride, o-henylphenol, p-dichlorobenzene and propane.

These create the potentially harmful effects to lungs, if inhaled in concentration or for prolonged periods of time. Solid or powdered fresheners may be poisonous if eaten by children or pets. Our veterinarian reported to us that she has seen as increase of dogs being poisoned by eating various room fresheners, especially those designed to also kill fleas.


Open windows and doors for at least a few minutes every day, longer during warmer weather when possible.

Locate the source of the odor problem and take corrective action to eliminate it all together.

Perform home repairs to correct moisture problems. Add vents and vapor barriers, detour water drainage away from house, etc.. Moisture can be one of the bigger causes of odor.

For carpets:

Baking soda will absorb smoking, cooking, pet and other odors that settle into the carpeting.

For cutting boards:

Use a baking soda paste and let stand 15 minutes to remove odors such as onion and garlic.

For the refrigerator:

Leave an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator.

For a sink garbage disposal:

Grind used lemons, rinds and all, in the disposal.

Pour baking soda into the disposal.

For a room, car or any small area:

Pour pure vanilla on a cotton ball in a saucer. Place in car, room, or refrigerator. This has been reported to even remove skunk odors.

Set out a dish of vinegar or boil 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in 1 cup of water to eliminate unpleasant cooking odors. The temporary smell of the vinegar will only last a very short time.

Simmer cinnamon and cloves together or vanilla and ginger together.

Set out herbal bouquets or potpourri in open dishes.

Household batteries:

As I was doing research for this article, it was a real eye-opener to learn how dangerous common everyday batteries are. The most common ingredients used are cadmium, corrosive electrolytes, lead, mercury and silver.

Flash lights with batteries still in place, when left in a closed car during a hot summer day can explode. Should this happen, the fire damage to your car would be disastrous. In one case I know of, when the insurance company learned that a car fire was started by such a situation, they refused to pay. They claimed that the owners should have known better and the fire was due to neglect on the owners part. So much for their classic 1959 Cadillac, coupe de ville, convertible that they spent thousands of dollars restoring.

There can also be internal and external irritation and burns from contact with the chemical substances used in making batteries, in the event of an explosion or leakage. The heavy metals in batteries, such as mercury are responsible to a good deal of air and water pollution when incinerated or disposed of in unlined landfills.

Should a battery roll off a table or counter without being noticed and a small child or puppy find it and of course into the mouth it goes. Because wet batteries tend to be slippery, therefore, would be easy to swallow. If a battery should be swallowed, seek medical/veterinary help immediately. Once the battery hits the digestive fluids of the stomach, being acid, death can occur, even from something as small as a watch or hearing aide battery.

“One mercury battery contained in six tons of garbage exceeds the allowable limit for mercury in solid waste as established by the federal government”. – Missouri HHWP Guide to Hazardous Products Around the Home…

It is suggested by the EPA that we avoid using battery operated products and toys all together. However, with today’s “gotta have it now” attitude, life without batteries isn’t very realistic. The alternative to battery usage that we find helpful without any inconvenience worth thinking about are…

Wear watches that need winding, rather than battery operated.

Buy and use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.

Use rechargeable flashlight, rather than battery operated ones.

When disposable batteries are the only option, buy ones designed to last longer, instead of the cheaper ones that run down in a short time. Then recycle any dead batteries. Mercury-oxide and silver-oxide button batteries are sometimes collected by jewelers, pharmacies, hospitals, senior centers and hearing aid stores for shipping to companies that reclaim the metals.

Bleaches.. The most common ingredients found in most bleaches are; hydrogen peroxide, oxalic acid, sodium hypochlorite, sodium perborate and sodium percarbonate. Chlorine bleach is reactive and can form toxic gas (chloramine gas), which is dangerously toxic, when mixed with other cleaners, especially ammonia or vinegar. Although it may serve as one of the best and least expensive disinfecting agents, if not used with extreme care, it can be lethal. It’s an irritant to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. If fumes are inhaled over prolonged periods or if swallowed, bleach can be deadly.


Reduce the amount of chlorine bleach needed by half by adding 1/2 cup baking soda to top-loading machines or 1/4 cup to front loaders.

Use oxygen bleaches or borax, 1/2 cup per laundry load.

Hydrogen peroxide, in a standard 3 percent solution, is an oxidizing bleach, safe enough to also use as a medicinal disinfectant. Use hydrogen peroxide based bleaches.

Listing the assorted products that can be found in most homes could go on and on, if space allowed. They range from shoe polish to hair spray, from personal deodorants and fingernail polish. Even the fluorescent lights we sit under have mercury and PCB’s and many ionizing type smoke detectors contain small amounts of radioactive material called, Americium-241. Some of the very things we bring into our homes to protect us and our bulldogs, if not used properly or maintained correctly can be every bit as dangerous, if not worse than the problem we’re wanting to be protected from.

The phrase of “buyer beware” is more important today than it has ever been in all of history. In cases of odors only being a mild problem, or a tiny stain that can hardly be noticed, maybe it’s best to just leave well enough alone. More times than not, the cure can be worse than the disease.

I would strongly suggest that you contact your local County or State Extension Service offices or the EPA, for more detailed information on how to recognize hazardous household products and learn about the effective alternative that are available. You just may be surprised!

Snail and Slug Bates and Beyond:

Among the assorted pests that plague our gardens each year are snails and slugs. Here in Oregon, the size of our slugs are legendary, some reaching lengths of 10 or more inches and a half inch or better in diameter. Although most are a solid sable, some are beautifully colorful. Wood carvings of our “Oregon Slugs” can be found in many gift shops and tourist centers. There are a few smaller communities that have annual Slug Races in celebration of Oregon’s well know sense of humor. After all, it’s apparent that we’ll have to keep living with them to some degree, so, “if you can’t beat ‘em, laugh at ‘em”!

Although, here in Oregon, we manage to find it in our hearts to laugh at our slugs and snails, when they’re not devastating our gardens, the more common means of dealing with these pests can be devastating to our children and pets, especially our dogs. Trust me, that is no laughing matter! I’m referring to snail and slug baits that fill the shelves of nearly every garden center and market that carry garden supplies.

Metaldehyde is one of the main ingredients in most slug and snail baits and one of the deadliest. It is extremely hazardous to all mammal life and dogs are exceptionally attracted to it. Metaldehyde poisoning can cause dangerously increased heart rate, severe breathing complications, and profound seizures, leading to death. If caught early enough to treat, most survivors still eventually die from complications with the liver. In either case, it’s an ugly and painful way to die.

There is a variety of creative alternatives that can be used to combat the snail and slug dilemma. Following are some suggestions that have proven successful with our oversized “Oregon Slugs”, so I’m sure they’ll be effective with slugs and snails everywhere.

Use tweezers, wooden chopsticks, a skewering device or disposable gloves to “hand pick” slugs and snails at night or when it is cool and wet. Collect them in a jar half filled with soapy water, then flush them away. Pay kids a “slug bounty” to pick them up.

Garter snakes, some species of ground beetles, salamanders and ducks feed on snails and slugs.

Purchase some cheep beer. Sink open containers of it into the soil around the garden. Slugs will be drawn to the beer, crawl in and drown. Commercial traps can be baited with beer. Replace beer frequently.

If your garden is in raised beds, tack copper strips to the outer frame as a barrier. This is the most effective barrier known. Be sure to remove slugs and snails already inside the barrier.

Clean up around the garden to remove hiding places and food sources. Cut back grass and weeds that slugs can use to get around barriers. Remove bricks, boards or pots slugs can hide under or use these hiding places as traps by scrapping off and disposing of the slugs on a daily basis.

Sprinkle sawdust, builders sand (no salt), ashes or lime around affected areas. If kept dry, this makes an irritating, drying surface that slugs find unattractive.

After you’ve done all you can to control a slug and snail problem in your own yard, the next step is to talk with your neighbors. If they’re using slug and snail bates, a breeze may blow the poisonous dust into your yard through a wood or wire fence. A few years back, we lost one of our bulldogs because of snail and slug bait the neighbors had sprinkled along their side of the fence. The wind blew some of it onto our side and before we knew what happened, Nova died. There was nothing we could do about it, except pray that the neighbors would accept our suggestions for alternatives and follow through. This was in no way a deliberate poisoning of our bulldog, it was just one of those unfortunate things caused by ignorance.

If your neighbors are unwilling to change from using slug and snail bates, then ask them to let you know a day ahead or so, when they plan to spread the poison around. With advance notice, you can take precautions to protect your yard and animals. First of all, plan to keep your bulldogs inside, or at least, as far away from the fence as possible. Then plastic sheeting, like what’s used for paint drop cloths, can be secured along the fence with a stable gun or tacks to keep the poison from being blown through a wood fence and twine or wire for wire or chain fencing. Be sure to securely anchor the bottom of the plastic sheeting to keep anything from coming up from under the protective wall. For those who have block fences, the poisonous dust can be blown over the top of the fence. Block fences tend to cause wind patterns to turn into little “dust devil” formations, which carry everything in their wake, upwards and over the fence. Hopefully your neighbors will cooperate with other means of slug and snail control. It would make life safer and easier for all concerned.

There are many other products on the market that are commonly used in most every home and are very dangerous. Products for garden, home and personal use should have all their labels carefully read and their directions carefully followed. Many of these common products can be avoided when alternatives can prove safer and just as effective.

Other Pests and Pesticides:

More than 1400 active pesticide ingredients are used in an excess of 45,000 pesticide formulas. Because of the extremely hazardous nature of some pesticides, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has canceled, suspended or restricted their use. The following is a list of pesticides banned from household use; Aldrin, Aresenates, Chordane, Creosote, Cyanides, DBCP, DDT, Dieldrin, Heptachlor, Kepone, Lindane, Mirex, Pentachlorophenol (PCP), Silvex, Arsenite, 2, 4, 5-T and Toxaphene. DO NOT USE THESE PRODUCTS!

Potential hazards from most chemically based and some naturally based pesticide products can cause immediate (acute) or long-term (chronic) poisoning from repeated exposure. Exposure can occur through skin absorption, inhalation or swallowing. Harmful to eyes and skin. Can be toxic to pets, beneficial insects, birds, animals and fish, even in small amounts. NEVER use pesticides if you or your bullbitch are pregnant.

Reducing home pesticide use is usually not quite as simple as substituting one product for another, but it is easier than one may think. Methods may vary depending upon the pest encountered, but the general steps listed below show how careful pest identification and monitoring, prevention and planning, and use of non-chemical controls can often eliminate the need for toxic pesticides. These suggestions only scratch the surface of a complex subject. You may wish to contact your local County Extension Service Office or the EPA for detailed information.

Identify pests carefully. Most insects are either harmless or beneficial.

Learn all you can about the pests you have. Proper treatment requires knowledge of the pest and the control method.

Tolerate a few insects; not all can or should be eradicated.

Remove habitat that encourage pests.

Encourage ecological diversity in the garden by planting a wide variety of plants.

Encourage beneficial insects in the lawn and garden by growing small flowered plants, providing feeding supplements available at garden centers and reducing the use of pesticides.

Grow plants that are resistant to insects and diseases in your area.

Use barriers to keep pests out of places where you don’t want them.

Remove pests by hand.

Use traps to catch pests without chemicals.

Purchase and release beneficial insects, such as lacewings, ladybugs, praying mantis, etc…

Rotate annual plantings of flowers and vegetables so that insect population do not build up within a planting.

Keep weeds where pests hide, in check through hand pulling and mulching.

If you choose to use chemicals use the least toxic one possible and always make spot rather than broadcast applications. Use insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, microbial insecticides, beneficial nematodes and desiccating dusts in place of synthetic pesticides as appropriate to a specific problem. Use all of these products according to directions only

House and Kennel:

In all cases where pest control is concerned, cleanliness is essential. Clean up food particles from counter tops and avoid leaving your pet’s food out for extended periods. Remove newspapers, grocery bags and other clutter that pests may hide under in the house. However, there are some pests that seem so tenaciously persistent, especially in climates that are tropical or sub-tropical, it doesn’t matter how spotlessly clean and picked up everything is.

In the house or kennel, such pests as, ants, cockroaches, fleas, flies and mice can be very hard, near impossible to live with. And in many areas, these pests will invade even the cleanest of dwellings. But they too, with some efforts can be dealt with effectively.

Ants/Cockroaches… Place food in air tight containers. Plug or Caulk cracks and holes, blocking all points of entry. Sprinkle boric acid or other approved desiccating dusts where these pests have been seen in nooks and crannies. Do not use where children and pets have access! Whenever possible, locate nests and destroy. Least toxic chemicals are boric acid, pyrethrum and silica gel. Roach traps and “hotels” are generally safe. They should be placed against walls for maximum effectiveness.

Establish one sleeping area for your pet. Vacuum weekly, bi-weekly in areas where pets have access. Throw vacuum bag away (where possible, burn vacuum bag). Bathe pets regularly, using a citrus based (without other insecticides) shampoo. Growth regulators, such as methoprene or fenoxycarb prevent egg and larvae development. They are nearly non-toxic to mammals but hazardous to insects, so apply carefully and only according to directions.

Mice.. Store dry pet foods in metal garbage cans with tight fitting lids. Mice can easily chew through plastic containers. Seal possible points of entry. Glue boards or sticky traps are gaining popularity, especially where toxicants are not desirable. Of course a good mouser cat can be worth their weight in mice (er… gold).

Yard and Kennel:

Outdoors, there’s a different group of pests to deal with, as well as some of the same ones that invade our homes and kennels. I’ll skip the bees, wasps and hornets, as two articles have already been devoted to them, but there are still other varmints that can cause more than their share of trouble.

two of the safest ways to deter flies I’ve found are: 1} Plant as many marigolds around your home and kennels as you an possibly stand, including potted marigolds set in opened windows. Flies do not like marigolds, so the more we plant, the fewer flies we’ve had to deal with. 2} Sticky tapes help in areas where marigolds can’t be planted, like in dog runs and in the kitchen, hallways and entries.

Moles/Gophers… Moles are voracious insect eaters that daily consume their weight in cutworms, wireworms, sowbugs, other garden pests and earthworms. Unlike gophers, who eat the roots of your garden crops, flowers and can kill young trees, moles are beneficial for the most part. If you can live with them, it’s best to let them be. As for gopher control, use the Macbee-type spring traps or boxtraps, or for larger gophers, a cinch trap.

Clean up and remove standing water and debris that can service as potential breeding sites. This includes tires, cans, crumples up plastic mulch and anything that can hold water for larvae. Fix leaky plumbing that may create pools in crawl spaces near your home. Use well fitting screens on doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home. Citronella-based insect repellents are a good choice for pets and those allergic to DEET. It is a natural plant extract, but it is not benign. It may cause allergic reactions and is harmful if ingested. For infants, small children and young puppies, use mosquito netting.

For most hazardous products on the market today, there are generally several alternatives that are either completely safe, or at least a lot safer. With a little effort, study and common sense, we can stop using the highly toxic means of pest control all together. Not only will this be safer of us, our families and our bulldogs, it will help our mother earth as well. And for those pest that occasionally bother us, perhaps they’re not as hard to live with as would the means of rid ding our selves of them would be in the long run.

As I keep researching various alternatives for a number of daily problems encountered, I’m reminded of an old Mother Goose rhyme taught to me as a child. “To every ailment under the sun, there is a remedy, or there is none. If there is one, try to find it. If there is none, never mind it.”

The bottom line is, if a pest is just that, a pest and doesn’t cause too much harm to you, your children, your pets or your gardens, try to just let them be. Sometimes the methods of eliminating them is more harmful than they themselves are.