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“Great for Kids and Pets”?

I’ve just come in the door after having had a very disturbing conversation with the owner of a pesticide franchise.

On my morning walk here in North Carolina, I came upon two men, wearing chemical packs on their backs, spraying a tree. I motioned my desire to chat with them and one man turned and walked toward me. As he did, he was still holding the sprayer aloft and I ended up being misted in the face before the machine was completely disengaged.

I inquired as to what chemicals they were using and I was told permethrin and piperonyl. A man, whom I understood to be the owner of the franchise, was standing close by, came over immediately, motioned for the other man to continue his work, and began to engage me in conversation.

I told him I was concerned about the indiscriminate spraying of pesticides that kills not only the target mosquitoes but also beneficial insects like honeybees.

His reply? “Will we kill a couple of bees, yes? But, do the biting flies bother you? Would you rather have the mosquitoes? Where are you from?”

“Massachusetts, originally,” I said.

“Did they spray for mosquitoes along the coast there?”

“Yes,” I replied. “And, you could be assured of a quorum at a Town Meeting if mosquito spraying was on the agenda. I’m on the other side of this. I think we should be using more natural methods of mosquito control. We keep using these pesticides and we’ll lose all of our pollinators.”

Sensing that neither was going to be won over in the argument, we went our separate ways. As I continued my walk, I came upon one of the company’s trucks. Wording on the side panels proclaimed, “Great for kids and pets.”

If that’s so, then why is permethrin “classified by [the] EPA as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” based on animal studies. Animal studies also point to permethrin as an endocrine disruptor . . . [T]he National Pesticide Information Center’s factsheet for permethrin shows is has a similar profile to bifrenthrin for its acute effects on people and pets, and its toxicity to bees and aquatic life.”

According to the NPIC, “bifenthrin is highly toxic to fish and small aquatic organisms, very highly toxic to bees, and [is] classified by the U.S. EPA as a possible human carcinogen . . . Other more recent work (based on animal models and human cell lines rather than studies of actual people) hints that bifenthrin may have additional toxic effects (including endocrine disruption, DNA damage, fertility issues, and increased risk for inflammatory responses.”

“People and pets are advised to avoid areas recently sprayed for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes until the solution dries to avoid acute effects, which, according to the National Pesticide Information Center, can include numbness and itching with contact. Breathing in bifenthrin can be an irritant and eating it is a no-no. So if you have a toddler running around your backyard, pulling grass and leaves, and putting them in his or her mouth, it’s probable that they are ingesting some pesticide. Spray drift can be an issue and water body contamination is to be avoided. Pets can experience acute effects as well, including vomiting, reduced activity, and partial paralysis.” [Source: http://blogs.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/mosquitoschemicals/%5D

So, here I sit on the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway, within feet of water and marshlands–a glorious natural landscape–wondering what it will take for us to stop this senseless march toward destruction. When I came in the door, I scrubbed my face and downed copious amounts of water to get the smell and feel of pesticides off of me. But, I have no doubt that every day I’m being inundated by these chemicals coming at me from any number of sources. I don’t want to fight a losing battle. I want to win this one and I’m begging you to join the push back against the indiscriminate use of pesticides.

Organic farmers, with whom I’ve spoken, are certain the pesticides that non-organic farmers are using are finding their way into the food supply. A neighboring oncologist here opines that many of the cancers he’s treating can be traced back to pesticide exposure. His wife, who is a beekeeper, reports that she’s seeing a reduction in the bee population. She reasons the bees are being destroyed by pesticides.

Yesterday, I came across a post on Facebook warning folks not to purchase plants treated with a particular class of neuro-active insecticide. Alongside the alert, was a photograph of a flower next to the reverse side of a plant card from a home improvement store noting that the plant was treated with neonicotinoids. Below was wording that, I presume, was meant to assuage any fears: the pesticide had been approved by the EPA.

These nerve-agent pesticides act on insects’ central nervous systems and are increasingly blamed for problems with bee colonies. They are believed to disorient a bee so it can’t find it’s way back to the hive. If it does make it to the hive, it spreads the insecticide to the rest of the population. A few weeks ago, after nearly two years of pressure from the public, Lowe’s Home Improvement announced that it will, at last, begin phasing out neonicotinoid pesticides.

According to Lowe’s 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility Report: “To support pollinator health,” the company is taking the following actions: “Including greater organic and non-neonic product selections; phasing out the sale of products that contain neonic pesticides within 48 months as suitable alternatives become commercially available; [and] working with growers to eliminate the use of neonic pesticides on bee-attractive plants we sell . . . ” [Source: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/3843/lowes-agrees-to-phase-out-bee-toxic-neonicotinoid-insecticides#%5D

Fifty three years ago, Rachel Carson in her prescient book, Silent Spring, described “the control of nature,” as a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and the convenience of man.” She wrote Silent Spring, she said, because she had discovered “that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important.”

“As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life—a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways . . . Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.”

Fifty three years ago, Carson sounded the warning. FIFTY THREE YEARS AGO! Just how great a catastrophe has to befall us before we will, at last, stop this needless destruction? Educate yourself. Read labels before you buy. Buy organic and be certain the “organic” IS organic. Stop using pesticides indiscriminately. Look for and buy safe, nature-friendly products. Make your voice heard with local growers, farmers’ markets, and stores where plants and pesticides are sold. Project forward the ultimate results of your individual actions and corporate actions. Begin TODAY.

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