ANSES is publishing the results of the Pesti’home study on the use of pesticides in the home
ANSES organised the Pesti’home study to find out more about how French people use pesticides to protect their homes, gardens and pets. The study provided a comprehensive overview of pesticides used in the home, along with the conditions of use and user profiles. This is the first major nationwide study in this field, with over 1,500 households interviewed and more than 5,400 products identified. The results shed new light on actual conditions of storage and use and will help us to better assess population exposure to pesticides.
Main findings of the study
Pesticides cover a wide range of products used to control organisms that are considered as harmful: fungi, insects, mites, rodents, weeds, and so on.
The Pesti’home study covers the products available to the public: pesticides used to protect indoor and outdoor plants, biocides used in the home to control insects, rodents, parasites or wood root, and anti-parasite treatments used on both humans and animals to kill lice, fleas, ticks, etc.
Conducted in metropolitan France in 2014, the study involved a representative sample of households around the country. In all, 1,507 households took part in the study, which was based on a questionnaire and an inventory of products stored in the home.
75% of households had used a pesticide at least once during the previous year
The Pesti’home study showed that pesticides are widely used in the home: 75% of households had used at least one pesticide in the 12 months preceding the study.
The products most frequently used are insecticides: 84% of the households using pesticides had used insecticides during the year. The most commonly used insecticides were biocides for flying insects (40% of households) and crawling insects (28%), along with veterinary treatments for pet parasites (61% of pet-owning households). Half of insecticide users use these products at least three times a year.
Next in the list of the most commonly used products are herbicides and products used to treat diseases in outdoor plants. These products are used respectively by 22% and 20% of households with an outdoor area, such as a garden, terrace or balcony. Half of users make use of herbicides and fungicides at least twice a year.
Finally, topical repellents such as mosquito repellents are only used by 12% of users, but they are the most frequent users of pesticides: at least six times a year for half of these households and more than 25 times a year for one-quarter of these households.
Three typical profiles of domestic pesticide users
Three main user profiles have been identified, based on the type and frequency of use:
- light users, who rarely employ pesticides. This profile mainly concerns urban households in residential buildings, often in the Paris region;
- heavy pesticide users: pet-owning households that use veterinary products for fleas and ticks, as well as lice control products for humans;
- very heavy pesticide users, who use a number of products for a range of purposes: in their homes, gardens and pools, and to protect themselves from insects.
The Agency's recommendations
Provide better information on how to use and dispose of pesticides
The main finding of the Pesti’home study is that users are insufficiently aware of the precautions for using pesticides in the home and do not always follow the instructions. For example, around one-third of households never read the instructions on mite and rodent control products and one-quarter never read them for products controlling flying or crawling insects. Moreover, although most households follow the precautions when using pesticides for outdoor plants (70%) or lice control products (68%), only 29% comply with them when using repellents and 36% for products against flying insects.
ANSES therefore underlines the need to better inform the public on the use of pesticides in the home. This information should cover all products and all purposes. It is essential to read the packaging and recommendations and to scrupulously follow all instructions for use: e.g. wearing gloves where required or airing the room in which the product was used. For veterinary anti-parasite drugs sold in pharmacies or by veterinarians, ANSES recommends that sellers explain the conditions of use set out in the leaflet.
Pesti’home also showed that users are not sufficiently informed concerning pesticide disposal. For example, 60% of households throw unused products in the bin and only 31% take them to a waste disposal centre. Further, more than one-quarter of households were in possession of at least one plant protection product that is banned from sale. For ANSES, it is therefore important for the authorities and for municipalities to inform the public and to provide practical advice on disposing of out-of-date, used or prohibited products. With respect to this point, the Agency reminds users that these products should not be thrown in the bin or poured down the sink, but taken to a waste disposal centre or similar facility provided by the town hall or local authorities.
Better assess exposure and risks associated with the use of pesticides in the home
The Pesti’home study sheds new light on the everyday use of pesticides in the home. This information is essential in order to better understand the exposure and potential health risks for the population and to identify cumulative chemical exposure in particular.
The data collected have already been used to guide campaigns to measure the quality of air inside the home and to study contamination levels in the population, based on blood, hair and urine samples, and will also be useful in interpreting their results.
At the end of 2019, all the information gathered by Pesti’home will be transferred to an open data platform where it will be available for use in research and assessment studies on population exposure to pesticides. At the same time, the results of Pesti’home will be shared at European level to refine modelling of human and environmental exposure, along with the conditions of use applicable to biocides used in the home.
The Pesti’home study has now been extended to France’s overseas territories. The results of this strand of the study will be published in 2020.
 Since the study was conducted, the proportion of prohibited products has increased. On 1 January 2019, the Labbé Act made it illegal for members of the public to buy, use or store synthetic chemical pesticides.