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Nontoxic Substitutes Available for Homes

January 10, 1985|LIZ McGUINNESS

Those in government may be spending most of their concern on disposing of hazardous waste--but some others are more interested in not producing that kind of waste in the first place.

In San Francisco, Debra Lynn Dadd has produced a book, "Non-Toxic and Natural" (J.P. Tarcher), listing "safe" substitutes for chemical products commonly used within the home. She began searching for the substitutes after finding she was allergic to chemical products, said Dadd. "Five years ago I couldn't even get out of bed, I was so sick," she said. Now that her own home is chemical free, she feels good again and can tolerate those chemicals she encounters in other environments, Dadd reported.

Some of her suggestions:

- Avoid building things with particleboard; it is held together with a formaldehyde-based resin, and some of the board even carries a warning label.

- Replace scouring powders that include chlorine with baking soda, borax or dry table salt. Or buy Bon Ami, which does not have the chemical.

- Instead of using caustic drain cleaners, try cleaning a drain with a plunger. If that doesn't work, make a cleaner with 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup salt and 1/4 cup cream of tartar. Pour 1/4 cup of the mixture down the drain, followed by 1 cup of boiling water. Rinse with cold water.

Substitutes for pest control substances are the specialty of the nonprofit Bio-Integral Resource Center, or BIRC, in Berkeley. BIRC executive director Sheila Daar said the organization issues publications that include a quarterly, "Common Sense Pest Control." Some of their ideas can be used by the homeowner; sometimes a specific professional treatment is recommended. A few of their ideas:

- For cockroaches: First, put out some traps, purchased at the store, to find out just how serious a problem you've got. Caulk cracks where the roaches reside and make sure that garbage that attracts them is disposed of completely. Then place boric acid, an inert powder that is deadly to roaches but relatively safe to humans and animals, in out-of-the-way spots, such as under the stove and refrigerator.

- For snails: For a lemon tree, for instance, buy a strip of copper a couple of inches wide and put a band of metal around the trunk. The copper repels snails, which will retreat back down the trunk. This technique also works around raised flower beds. The copper strips are available from some electrical suppliers.For other areas, make a fence from a strip of window screen; fray the top edge and bend the screen away from the planted area. Snails will climb the screen but fall off when they hit the frayed edge.

- Termites: An entire bulletin was issued on this subject. It included suggestions on using nematodes, worms that can be purchased to fight subterranean termites, and offered information on a new electrical gun technique that is now being used in some cases to replace "bagging" to fumigate homes. The gun needs to be handled by a professional, said Daar.

A free publications catalogue is available by sending a self-addressed envelope with 37 cents in stamps to BIRC, P.O. Box 7414, Berkeley, 94707.

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