Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pesticides: Yet Another Reason to Avoid Golfing

Remember that scene from North by Northwest when Cary Grant has to outrun a crop-duster.  Hitchcock knew how to instill terror in us:  pesticides - yikes. Industry claims they're perfectly safe.  Perhaps we're better off listening to Grant's character:  "In the world of advertising, there's no such thing as a lie. There's only expedient exaggerations."

Lawns use 90 million pounds of pesticides and herbicides each year in the U.S.  DDT is still used for malaria control - but mosquitoes become very resistant to pesticides (even DDT). 2,4-D disrupts hormone processes in plants to kill off dandelions.  (2,4-D was an active ingredient in Agent Orange.)  When sprayed on crops, it ends up in rivers and in our groundwater.

* Avoid creating a mono-culture that can easily be invaded by pests (i.e. a lawn).  Add clover to the lawn, or rip it up and grow other plants like vegetables or ivy or myrtle.
* Wash produce well to help remove pestiide residue
* Download the EWG's list of foods to avoid that likely contain more pesticides than others.

Prevalence / Persistence
*DDT is still found in our bloodstream even though it's been banned for decades (1972).

Health Concerns
* 2,4-D and other hormone-disrupting chemicals follow a U curve of harm meaning that very low doses and very high doses both can lead to serious health complications.  There is no safe exposure limit.
* Nausea, headaches, vomiting, eye irritation, difficulty breathing, lack of coordination immediately after exposure 
* Lawn-care workers are prone to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (blood cancer), and leukemia
* Links to learning disabilities and other neurological impairments as they attack neurons int he brain.
* Strong links between pesticides and many forms of cancer
* Asthma
* Reproductive problems, miscarriages and birth defects
* Farmers in Ontario who use pesticides have lower sperm counts than non-farmers
* Testicular cancer

Why it's still in use
* Companies work hard to convince us pesticides are safe.  Canada typically restrict products only after they've been banned in other countries.  We have some of the  most lax standards in any Western country.

* Since 2004 there have been 200 municipal bylaws created in Canada that ban pesticides for residential use.  Agriculture and golf courses are a different story.   Environment Minister include 2,4-D on a list of banned chemicals on an Ontario province-wide law.  He said, "It's about protecting kids playing in their own yards or other properties."

Cross-posted at Project Earth Blog, March 6, 2010

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