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Outdoor Pesticides – are they worth the risk?

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Now is the time to take a second look at what we decide to pass on to our families, our pets and our environment.

By Kimberly Monaghan Posted Jan 28, 2009

With such toxic revelations, government agencies have been swamped with testing, approving or eliminating various pesticides that have since emerged on the market. According to Donald Baumgartner, MS Medical Entomologist with the EPA: “the more potent pesticides are gradually being eliminated or phased out of the marketplace because of potential concerns about adverse human and environmental effects.” In the meantime we are still fighting the presence of these readily available contaminants and the lingering effects of those historically utilized. The NPIC is a cooperative effort of Oregon State University and the EPA whose staff of qualified pesticide specialists and toxicologists conduct continuous studies on over 50,000 different products still registered for use in the United States since 1947. The NPIC along with other organizations such as the Environmental Protection Bureau, report on the potentially destructive effects that make up the ‘active’ ingredients of commercial pesticides. In one report it was disclosed that many of these ‘active’ ingredients utilized today were registered with the EPA prior to the 1978 when Congress passed stronger pesticide-testing requirements. In his report entitled “Poison in the Grass” author Nathan Diegelman expresses concern about the additional ingredients of pesticides, sometimes called ‘inert’ or ‘inactive’ that are used as product fillers. These chemicals, he states, “can be just as dangerous…and include components of war-time defoliants like Agent Orange, nerve-gas type insecticides, and artificial hormones.”

Lately much concern has developed over children’s and pet exposure to pesticides, both within the home and in commercial and educational facilities. Pet flea collars are labeled ‘poisoned necklaces’, dips and powders used to prevent infestation can often do more harm than help. Whether tracking pesticides indoors, inhaling airborne sprays, playing in a freshly sprayed lawn, or accidental consumption, pets and children are more likely to be at risk. Due to their size, they are not only much physically closer to the distributed pesticides, but their bodies, including children who are not fully developed yet, are unable to eliminate or resist toxins making them much more vulnerable to poisoning. Many organizations are educating parents and pet owners on the alternatives to pesticides along with action plans to avoid attracting pests in and around the home. The Humane Society of the United States, the Federal Citizen Information Center and the EPA provide information on keeping a healthy home along with tips on protecting children from home pesticide poisoning. Thankfully there are many grassroots organizations that have begun to bring issues of pesticide poisoning in children to the attention of government administrators. Even though they are faced with constant political suppression, the Children’s Environmental Coalition (CHEC) is working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fight children’s exposure to toxic chemicals in all arenas and call on parents help continue to support this movement.

Regardless of the overwhelming amount of case studies, research, reports and statistics relating to the negative effects of pesticides, they continue to be utilized.

Regardless of the overwhelming amount of case studies, research, reports and statistics relating to the negative effects of pesticides, they continue to be utilized. But what can the consumer do to help prevent pesticide toxicity and environmental destruction? The most obvious answer is to stop utilizing theses chemicals. This however is much easier said than done. After all it is much too convenient to pick up the phone for the monthly lawn spraying service, squirt those annoying dandelions with fertilizers, dust the roses and trees to protect against fungus, and combat those pesky insects and rodents with bait and sprays. But thankfully there are other alternatives to choose from including ‘biocontrol.’ Selecting pest resistant species of plants, keeping gardens clean from residues and droppings and choosing to use organically accepted insecticides are just a few of the options available. Also there are many beneficial organisms that act as natural deterrents to pests such as purple martins, ladybugs and parasitic wasps that feed on destructive insects. The use of commercially produced “broad spectrum insecticides kill both pests and beneficial insects indiscriminately,” explains Philip Dickey with the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTA). When this happens “the pests tend to come back first and are then uncontrolled by predators, so the recurrence is worse than the original problem.” Dickey also encourages the consumer to consider less toxic products such as insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, and corn gluten herbicides, all of which are part of the Coalition’s push towards natural alternatives in pesticides.

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