A type of “safe” pesticide found in household products—from lice shampoo to Raid bug spray—is responsible for a surge in injuries and deaths over the past decade, according to Environmental Protection Agency data acquired by the Center for Public Integrity. In a new report, “Perils of the New Pesticides,” CPI reveals that “the number of reported human health problems, including severe reactions, attributed to pyrethrins and pyrethroids increased by about 300 percent over the past decade … [the chemicals] accounted for more than 26 percent of all fatal, ‘major,’ and ‘moderate’ human incidents in the United States in 2007, up from 15 percent in 1998.”

Pyrethrins, extracted from the chrysanthemum plant, and their synthetic relatives, pyrethroids, have exploded in popularity over the last decade. They are now used in thousands of consumer products from Hartz Dog Flea & Tick Killer to Raid Ant and Roach Killer. These chemicals are found in bug-repellant clothing, flea collars, automatic misting devices, lawn-care products, and carpet sprays. Manufacturers developed them as safer alternatives to a class of compounds, derived from Nazi nerve gases, called organophosphates, found in products such as Dursban. The chemicals were widely used in American homes as recently as the late 1990s but are no longer approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for indoor use.

The EPA released its pesticide incident-reporting database in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from CPI earlier this year. The database was called one of the “Ten Most Wanted Government Documents” by the Center for Democracy and Technology.

>> Read “Perils of the New Pesticides” by the Center for Public Integrity.

Carrie Ching

Carrie Ching is an award-winning, independent multimedia journalist and producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. For six years, she led digital storytelling projects at the Center for Investigative Reporting as senior multimedia producer. Her multimedia reports have been featured by NPR.org, The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, Grist, Time.com, Fast Company, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, KQED, PBS NewsHour, Salon.com, Mother Jones, Public Radio International, Poynter, Columbia Journalism Review and many other publications. Her specialty is crafting digital narratives and exploring ways to use video, audio, photography, animation and interactive graphics to push the boundaries of storytelling on the Web, tablets and mobile. Her work has been honored with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Best of the West, the Online News Association, Scripps Howard, The Gracies, and was part of the entry in a Pulitzer-finalist project. Prior to her time at CIR she was a magazine and book editor, video journalist, newspaper reporter and TV comedy scriptwriter. She was on the 2010 Eddie Adams Workshop faculty as a multimedia producer working with MediaStorm to teach digital storytelling techniques to photojournalists. She completed a master’s degree in journalism at UC Berkeley in 2005.