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The Lens of Historical Perspective Often Yield the Final Truth

 

Photos courtesy U.S. Library of Congress

Who needs the ocean when you have DDT?

 

Only years after the damage is done do we learn the truth about some chemical products sold for general use by the public.

Our government and chemical corporations told us that DDT was safe for humans.  Prior to 1972 when its use was banned, DDT was a commonly used pesticide.  In fact, children played in the “safe” DDT fog. Other parts of the world continue to use DDT in agricultural practices and in disease-control programs. Therefore, atmospheric deposition is the current source of new DDT contamination in our Great Lakes.

Even though DDT has been banned since 1972, it can take more than 15 years to break down in our environment. Fish consumption advisories are in effect for DDT in many waterways including the Great Lakes ecosystem. 

Today DDT is designated as a “persistent bio-accumulative and toxic (PBT) chemical, but only a few years ago children’s rooms were plastered with DDT laced wallpaper—“perfectly safe.”

 

AGENT ORANGE

Note:  Agent Orange isn’t around any more but one of its key components (2, 4-D) is still produced by Dow and sold in over 70 products including Scott’s Weed and Feed, Miracle-Grow Weed and Feed, Weed B Gone and others.

Agent Orange was a color-coded herbicide that consisted of a 50/50 mixture of two individual herbicides: 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T.  The herbicide 2,4, 5-T, which contained Dioxin, a by-product of the deliberately accelerated production of 2,4, 5-T, is a carcinogen that remains toxic to the environment for decades.  Its sale has been banned in the USA.

I suggest reading the NPIC 2,4-DTechnical Fact Sheet http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/2,4-DTech.pdf before using any of these popular herbicide products containing this chemical and then you can make an informed decision for yourself.  Don’t rely on marketing information from those who profit from the sale of these products—that is nothing short of stupid.

 

ROUNDUP

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup.  Regulatory and scholarly reviews of the toxicity of glyphosate found it to be relatively safe as an herbicide just as they did for DDT for years.

A meta-analysis published in 2014 identified an increased risk of NHL in workers exposed to glyphosate formulations.

In March 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer published a summary of its forthcoming monograph on glyphosate, and classified it as "probably carcinogenic in humans" (category 2A) based on epidemiological studies, animal studies, and in vitro studies.

 

SEVIN DUST

I can remember my mother and grandmother using this stuff in their gardens—especially on the tomatoes.  Sevin is highly toxic to bees, mollusks and aquatic invertebrates.  Resulting runoff from groundwater affects the entire food chain.  Furthermore, Sevin combines with 2, 4-D found in Scotts Weed and Feed and miracle Grow to increase the toxicity of 2, 4-D.  Continuous inhalation of Sevin dust can cause pneumoconiosis, more commonly referred to as “Black Lung Disease.

Carbaryl (1-naphthyl methylcarbamate) is the chemical name for Sevin.  It was developed in the 1950’s by Union Carbide. Carbaryl is a carcinogen and has shown to induce DNA damage in humans, animals and plants. Breakdown of this chemical in the stomach, coupled with ingestion of sodium nitrate, a common food additive, forms nitrosocarbaryl, a more potent mutagenic compound. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/carbtech.pdf  

Note:  the problem with many of these tests that our government performs is that they are conducted in the laboratory and often do not take into consideration the interaction of a chemical with other chemicals that are often present in the natural environment where these pesticides are applied. More often than not only one or two variables are tested in a lab setting.

For one example:  Breakdown of Carbaryl, coupled with ingestion of sodium nitrate, a common food additive that forms nitrosocarbaryl, a potent mutagenic compound. [Sodium nitrate is a preservative that is often used as a preservative in processed meat such as bacon.  Thus if a worker has bacon for breakfast and then inhales some Sevin Dust while dusting tomato plants in his garden a few hours later, his risk is not the same as that of the lab rats who had no bacon for breakfast.  His risks are much greater.]

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

We can look for healthier organic control for the pests and plant diseases in our gardens.  At least, as the current President of Loving Garland Green, that is what I advocate our members.  As stewards for the Garland Community Garden we are bound by our agreement with our city to not use pesticides and herbicides in the garden. We can experiment with organic solutions.

 

ORGANIC SOLUTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION AND EXPERIMENTATION DOWN AT THE GARLAND COMMUNITY GARDEN

  1. Instead of Sevin Dust, some say to use Self-Rising Flour that has yeast in it.  Insects supposedly taste of this and then swell up and die.  I’m not so sure about this.  I would have to see it to believe it.  Furthermore, I have enough common sense knowledge about flour to know that if it is applied shortly after a rain that it will form a paste on the leaves of a plant.  This in turn could create a great environment for mold.  I would need more first-hand experience before jumping on this bandwagon.  Until I have further information/education on this topic, I’m not subjecting our tomatoes at the garden or those in my garden at home to this test.  If someone else wants to—be my guest.  This one just doesn’t pass my common sense test.  I’m going with Sluggo for now.

  2. DE or Diatomaceous Earth – absolutely!  I would recommend DE to kill any fire ant mound on the planet.  I’ve done it more than once.  They are dead within a few hours.  For the gentler kinder gardeners who want to make fire ants their neighbors problem, you might try molasses granules, which you can probably get locally here in Garland at either Rhodes or Roaches.  Molasses granules are said to make fire ants pack up and leave—again I can’t personally vouch for this, but there are many claims to this effect.

  3. Vinegar instead of Roundup for herbicide.  I cannot recommend this, as I have not tried it—yet.  However, I do plan an experiment down at the garden using vinegar as herbicide.  Specifically I plan to spray two clumps of grass with vinegar and water (20% vinegar and 80% water) and see what happens.  I’ll take photographs and publish them in an article here in a few days.  Then, if the vinegar kills the grass, I’ll dig up one clump and plant a transplant where the clump of grass once was to see if the residual from the vinegar affects the growth of the new plant.  As for the other clump of grass, I’ll let it stay, wilted and dead to see how long/if grass or weeds grow in this spot. 

    Who knows?  Perhaps from this experiment we can recommend that our parks and recreation department stop using taxpayer money to purchase glyphosate laced herbicides and start buying vinegar instead which is no doubt MUCH cheaper and does far less harm in terms of pollution of our waterways.  Our City and Parks and Recreation Department do not use glyphosate indiscriminately; however, they do spray it around fence posts and the like to reduce the need for labor to remove weeds in these areas.

  4. Sluggo for Snail, slug, earwigs, cutworms and pill bug control -  Sluggo is an organic pesticide.  The active ingredient is iron phosphate and Spinosad. http://www.domyownpestcontrol.com/msds/sluggo-plus-0107-MSDS.pdf 

    As far as I’m concerned this product meets my requirements for safety. My consciousness is not yet so evolved that I have a problem with the murder of certain insects.  A little murder is OK with me—particularly when the natural balance of things is out of whack.  Our almost constant rain this past month has produced an over-abundance of pill bugs, slugs and snails. In case you haven’t noticed.  They will literally strip a plant of all its leaves overnight.

    Also I plan to set up some paper cups that I fill partially with beer (sorry Mayor Athas and Barry Swisher from our Parks Department but we will have some alcohol on park property) to see if slugs and snails are attracted to it.  I’ll also take photos of this experiment as well and report back to you.

FINAL NOTE ON “ORGANIC”

 Just because a product is labeled “organic”, it does not follow that precautions are not in order when considering its use.  You know this, for example, if you’ve ever had vinegar in your eye.  Therefore, when I perform my vinegar experiment, I’ll wear safety glasses and I will choose a day when it is not windy to spray.  I would not be happy if vinegar drifted over to one of our vegetables and killed it.  All the same precautions that apply for using Roundup would apply for using vinegar.

Before using any type of pesticide, whether organic or synthetic chemical, one should consider all possible ramifications and take all reasonable precautions.

A member recently suggested putting rock salt around the beds to prevent weed growth.   He was correct in the assumption that it would be good weed control, but I nixed this suggestion immediately even though rock salt is a natural substance.  The implications for such an act could be profound not only for harming plants in beds downhill from those uphill, but also for our riparian (wooded) area that is next to the creek.  In addition, it would pollute the ground water that would eventually make its way to the creek.  It is possible we could kill many of the wild plants and trees in our riparian area by doing such a thing.  We have over 3,000 square feet of garden beds so that would be a lot of rock salt.

Frankly, the more I learn regarding pesticides and herbicides, the more I think that the best control is to visit your garden daily and pick the pests off and drown them in a bucket of soapy water.  As for the weeds:  no better control than simply yanking them up.  Thanks to raised beds, this task is easy.  Down at the garden, due to our leaf layers in many of the walkways, the same is true.  Weed and grass are easy to pull up.

Saturday, April 25, 2015