10/27/2011 01:51 pm ET Updated Dec 27, 2011

Living Green: Focus on Fido

We spend a lot of time providing a healthier life for our family. This month we've talked about cleaning up our water, cleaning products, mattresses, our paint and even our bodies. But now it's time to worry about another important member of the family, and one who is often forgotten -- Fido!

Pets are especially impacted by the dangerous chemicals in your home because they live so close to the ground, both indoors and out. So where should we look for the greatest dangers?

Start by thinking about fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. Our pets are exposed to the insecticides we spray on the yard, and the flea shampoos we bathe them in. Many of these treatments contain chemicals that are linked to cancer, allergies, asthma and are suspected endocrine disruptors. For example, many concentrated "spot-on" flea medications contain a pesticide called permethrin, which can cause skin and eye irritation, rashes, inflammation and neurological symptoms. In fact, the EPA is set to begin reviewing these product labels and developing stricter testing requirements for flea and tick treatments that are applied to a pet's skin.

It is obviously still important to prevent infestations, but it is also possible to get the job done using safer methods. Some require more time, but your family will benefit from the lower pesticide exposure as well. Try these tips for safer flea and tick control:

• Groom your pets with a flea comb.

• Trim the lawn frequently.

• Wash pet beds and blankets often.

• Vacuum your home regularly.

• Check the NRDC's GreenPaws Flea and Tick Products Directory before deciding on chemical treatments.

We can keep mosquitos from dominating our dog's turf naturally too. The key here is prevention -- catching them before they grow from larvae into adults. If you've already got a flying mosquito population to deal with, it's best to combine several natural remedies. Here are some pesticide-free ideas:

• Get rid of potential breeding grounds from your landscaping by removing standing water: water buckets, empty plastic growing pots, gutters, clogged drains and bird baths.

• Add bacillus thuringiensis (BT) to the water in ponds, fountains and birdbaths to kill larvae. BT is a harmless natural substance that is safe for pets, fish, birds and wild life but is deadly to all kinds of larvae. It's available at most gardening stores.

• Spray the entire yard (including shrubbery) at least once per month with a mixture of natural pyrethrums, bacillus thuringiensis and neem oil. The mixture also helps to manage fleas and ticks and will destroy sneaky mosquito hideouts in smaller pockets of standing water.

• Enlist the help of a good old bug zapper for flying adult mosquitoes.

By focusing on Fido, you're also addressing yet another source of toxic chemical exposure in your home!

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