Spring has sprung and the papers are once again filled with ads for weed killers and bug killers and moss killers, so it must be time for my yearly letter to the Mirror on the perils of gardening with chemicals.
Pesticides have been around for 70 years, yet plant pests and diseases and weeds have become alarmingly more prevalent and harder to get rid of. Not only are these chemicals ineffective for more than a few weeks, but the pests and weeds they are designed to kill have in fact become resistant to them, much like the bacterial “super bugs” have become resistant to antibiotics (do we see a pattern here?). Plant pests are becoming true Super Bugs. This means you have to spray more often using more toxic chemicals every year, all the while knowing that the bugs, weeds and diseases will inevitably develop a resistance to whatever toxic chemicals we throw at them.
Meanwhile, pesticides and herbicides/fungicides are killing us! These chemicals are responsible for disrupting our hormone balance, adding extra estrogen-like chemicals to the bodies of men, women and children. Most of them are highly mutagenic (causing permanent mutations in genes and chromosomes) which can lead to birth defects and cancer and many are also neuro (brain) toxins.
Roundup is not, as we have been lead to believe, a fairly benign chemical that soon dissipates from the environment. In fact when the glyphosate is combined with the previously considered “inert” ingredients that are part of the Roundup formula it has been found to destroy cells, particularly affecting developing cells in pregnancy. It also has been shown to impede the body’s ability to detoxify, promote chronic inflammation and has been associated with Parkinson’s, infertility and cancer.
2,4-D, a weed killer/herbicide found in Killex, Weed-B-Gone, Later’s Weed Stop, Weed and Feed and many others was a major component in Agent Orange, which was used to defoliate Vietnam 40 years ago by the U.S. military. A 1992 article titled 2,4-D written by Gwen Bane lists 66 references to studies on 2,4-D and its metabolites (the chemicals it breaks down into) and their harmful impact on animals, farm workers and the environment. With titles such as “Studies of reproductive function in persons occupationally exposed to 2,4-D”, these studies show that this chemical is linked to increases in cancer, birth defects, reproductive difficulties, aggressive behaviour and nervous system damage.
When you put this or any other “weed killer” on your lawn, everyone standing or sitting on it, including pets, neighbors gathered for a barbeque and little children running around playing ball are exposing themselves to a serious toxin. These can easily get tracked into the house by both people and pets. Remember, all it takes are minute amounts (especially in children and people whose bodies are already stressed) to disrupt the delicate balance of your body. Bane writes “there is extensive research documenting the association between 2,4-D and cancer in humans”. In this day and age when the incidence of cancer has gone from one in eight in 1950 to one in two, why take the risk of exposing yourself to known cancer causing chemicals?
There are many non-toxic, natural alternatives to pesticides, herbicides and fungicides readily available and myriads of organizations, websites, books and local farmers in the community that can teach us about them. Our health and the health of our pets, the birds and the bees is greatly compromised by toxic chemicals. Not using household pesticides is a personal decision that can make a big difference in the increasingly heavy toxin burden faced by us all these days.