Why Be Concerned about Pest Control Chemicals?

Herbicides, pesticides, and other such agents have been promoted as a victory over weeds and other pests.

Maybe.

Let’s recognize that your human body is a chemical reaction. Thus, the health of your body depends upon the chemicals that you put in it – either through food or from the environment.


California Towhee, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye

The California Towhee feeds on insects and seeds that it finds on the ground. When these are coated with chemicals, the bird eats the chemicals. – Some chemicals are so toxic that eating one seed will kill the bird.


Here’s why I’m concerned.

1) Any chemical that destroys life will be toxic for people.

2) Most pest control chemicals leave no evidence that they are present after application. They wait on the surfaces of dirt, plants, stones, and sidewalks. So people unknowingly come in contact with them. In addition, freshly applied (i.e., wet) chemicals can be easily absorbed by human contact.

3) Most of these chemicals cause a delayed reaction. That is, the chemical may take days (or even weeks) to kill a pest.

With people, it’s more complicated. These chemicals can accumulate in body tissue, causing illnesses decades after contact.

This is also complicated by the variability of human response to toxins. For example, children are more sensitive to toxins than adults. And some adults are more resistant than other adults. So it can be difficult to relate an illness to contact with these chemicals.

4) Cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, premature births, infertility, autism, and digestive disorders have been connected with commonly used pest control chemicals. For example, the increase in autism directly tracks the increased use of Glyphosate.

5) Chemical companies have used propaganda technologies developed by the cigarette industry to hide the true effects of their products. They have discredited science, published bogus reports, and prevented independent studies.

6) Some of these chemicals are especially toxic to birds and other wildlife. And some toxins destroy an entire food chain, from pest to bird to carnivore. Thus, every environmental organization opposes the use of these chemicals.

7) The person applying these chemicals often becomes contaminated. For example, the common mist applicator releases a fog of small, invisible droplets that travel far from their source driven by air currents and diffusion. So the person using this system collects the chemical on their clothes, shoes, and skin, which ends up in their home where they (and others) experience repeated contacts with it.

8) Sometimes supporting ingredients (such as solvents and surfactants) are also toxic.

9) Outdoor pets collect these chemicals on their fur and paws. Then they can become sick when they groom themselves. Or they can contaminate the people at home.

10) The manufactures of pesticides have bought politicians, thereby preventing laws that could regulate or prohibit using their products.


Cooper’s Hawk, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye

A Cooper’s Hawk is more likely to catch a sick (i.e., poisoned) rodent because it moves slower. Then the hawk becomes sick or dies


Consider This

1) Would you gather your family for a picnic on an area that had been sprayed with a pest control chemical?

2) Would you let your children play on an area that had been sprayed with a pesticide?

3) Would you want members of your family to work with pesticides?

If your answer to these questions is, “No,” then using these chemicals is wrong.


Definition

The word pesticide includes herbicides (kill plants), fungicides (kill fungus), insecticides (kill bugs), and pesticides (kill pests).

Each has its own toxicity and thus effect on your health.

In addition, there are different types of each of these chemicals. Some of them are especially toxic.


General Recommendations

1) Avoid using any type of pest control chemicals.

2) Never apply toxic chemicals where people can unknowingly come in contact with them.

3) Use traps for bugs and rodents. Use boiling water for weeds. And use ground covers, such as a plastic tarp or bark chips, to prevent weeds.

4) Chop weeds with a hoe, thereby returning them to the soil as mulch.

5) Find more ideas in the books listed below.

6) Buy organic foods because these have been grown without using pesticides. Foods grown with pesticides is often contaminated by the chemical. Thus, organic foods are better for you.


If You Must Use a Pesticide

1) Check the list of ingredients carefully. Then search for info on their toxicity from independent, reliable sources.

Pesticide companies have a history of minimizing or even hiding the true toxicity of their products.

Finally, compare the risks with the results. For example, is it worth risking cancer to remove a few weeds?

2) Put a fence around areas that have been treated. And post signs telling people to keep out.

3) As a minimum precaution, wear protective gear, such as rubber boots, gloves, a face mask (or a face shield), long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. Then remove and wash your clothing immediately after applying the chemicals.

Note: Some pesticides require wearing a full haz suit.

4) Consider applying herbicides with a brush, instead of spraying them on plants.

5) Store all pesticides in a secure area to prevent people (especially children) from accidentally coming in contact with them.


Personal Responsibility

I believe that everyone has a personal responsibility to make ethical choices.

While we have no control over what a company may choose to make, we do have control over whether we buy it.

Every purchase is thus a vote that supports continuation of a product or service.


In General

There is a growing concern about the use of pest control chemicals. Some of these chemicals have been banned by cities in the United States and by countries in Europe. See the links below.


Resources

American Bird Conservancy

Re:Wild Your Campus

The Nature Conservancy, Native Gardening

Organic Consumers Association

The Xerces Society

Moms Across America

Beyond Pesticides

Common Sense Gardening Guides

Where Is Glyphosate Banned?


Books

Weeds: Control without Poisons, by Charles Walters

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control, by Fern Marshall Bradley, Barbara W. Ellis, Deborah L. Martin

Weeding Without Chemicals, by Bob Flowerdew


Articles

Keep Your Cat Safe