Toxic Talk Tuesday: Lawn Care

It’s that time again! Chris and Andrea Fabry delighted us with yet another broadcast of Toxic Talk Tuesday, and this time, the topic was lawn care–just in time for summer!

Definition of the Day

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for:

  • preventing,
  • destroying,
  • repelling, or
  • mitigating any pest.

First, let’s start off with the quiz of the day.  To take the quiz yourself, click here.  I have listed the questions, answers, and more information to help set the stage for understanding pesticides.

1. Which of the following is NOT classified as a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? Pledge Furtniture Spray

While Pledge contains hazardous chemicals, it does not fall into the pesticide category. Products containing chlorine bleach, triclosan (hand sanitizers), and mold/mildew remover are all classified as pesticides. According to the EPA:

Many household products are pesticides. All of these common products are considered pesticides:

• Cockroach sprays and baits.
• Insect repellents for personal use.
• Rat and other rodent poisons.
• Flea and tick sprays, powders, and pet collars.
• Kitchen, laundry, and bath disinfectants and sanitizers.
• Products that kill mold and mildew.
• Some lawn and garden products, such as weed killers.
• Some swimming pool chemicals.

More information here and here.

2. Which herbicide product is represented a label containing 2,4-D, a chemical used in Agent Orange during the Vietnam era, which according to the EPA is “reported to result in blood, liver, and kidney toxicity”?  Ortho Weed B Gone

Roundup, Touchdown, and Kleeraway are all trade names for the chemical glyphosate, which is also hazardous.

According to the organization Beyond Pesticides, 2,4-D has been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, and much more. Because it is widely available, the health effects “are of particular concern.”

More information here and here.

3. According to the EPA, children are exposed to the chemical 2,4-D through lawn care products. If a child is exposed to 2,4-D indoors, the exposure most likely comes through: Dust on shoes of person applying the product.

According to the EPA’s TEACH Chemical Summary on 2,4-D:

Children are most likely to be exposed following application of 2,4-D as a residential lawn care product. Exposure is most likely to occur via inhalation of indoor air and house dust generally subsequent to lawn care application of 2,4-D, or via contact with 2,4-D-treated grass or turf. Hand-to-mouth activity can also contribute to exposure from 2,4-D-contaminated house dust in younger children. The dust on shoes of the person applying the 2,4-D to lawns may be the greatest contributor to indoor 2,4-D contamination. Exposure of children may also occur from diet, drinking water, and swimming in lakes treated with 2,4-D (with highest concentrations of 2,4-D occurring within 24 hours of lake treatment).

More information here.

4. This pesticide category accounts for 70% of all agricultural pest-control products used in the United States: Weed Killers

According to the EPA:

A pesticide is a chemical used to prevent, destroy, or repel pests. Pests can be insects, mice and other animals, weeds, fungi, or microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.

The USDA article linked below traces the history of pesticide use in this country, stating:

During the 1960s, agricultural pesticide use was dominated by insecticides, accounting for about half of all pesticides used. The quantity of insecticides applied fell as the organochlorines (DDT, aldrin, and toxaphene) were replaced by pyrethroids and other chemicals that required lower application rates. Today, 70 percent of the quantity of pesticides used in agriculture are herbicides.

More information here.

5. An organic household pesticide may contain harmful ingredients if its material safety data sheet contains what? Propietary blend of emulsifiers and solvents to 100%

The use of essential oils in pest control is positive. When coupled with toxic chemicals contained in the “inert” ingredients, however, a product’s safety may be compromised. This product may or may not be just as hazardous as a product with no essential oils.

According to the EPA:

Inert ingredients are “other” ingredients that do not control the pest, but serve other purposes such as dissolving the active ingredients or affecting how the product works.

Up to 3,000 chemicals may be classified as inert and are not subject to regulation due to business confidentiality.

More information here and here.

6. The EPA says this plant oil is effective for repelling mites, fleas, and mosquitoes: Euclyptus

Recommended for use on cats, dogs, humans and their clothing, and in homes.

For a list of other natural repellents, see the EPA’s Plant Oils Fact Sheet.

7. The first Roundup Ready crop (able to resist applications of the weed killer Roundup) was first marketed in 1996. This biotech soybean was genetically pieced together using this vegetable/flower combination: Cauliflower / Petunia

From the Organic Consumers Association website:

A gene from a cauliflower virus acted as a master control switch. It activated the bacterial enzyme that was able to fend off Roundup while still producing adequate growth proteins. A snippet of petunia DNA made sure those proteins were ferried to the proper location within the soy plant. Another strand of DNA from a different type of bacterium served as a molecular stop sign, preventing overproduction of the proteins.

A good word picture on genetic modification: Suppose you have a preschooler and you get home a letter saying, “We would like to conduct an experiment on your daughter. We would like to feed your daughter 1/4 tsp. of pesticide to your daughter every day until she is 18.  We have no reason to believe this will be harmful.” Would you be willing to allow your child to do that?  We do not have 100 years of study to see what these things are doing to us.  What we do know, is that some of these chemicals have been used to kill humans in the right doses, so is it not logical to ask the question–is this good for us?

More information here.

8. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), originally designed to provide better pest control, are produced by inserting the DNA of one species into the DNA of an unrelated plant or animal. Because living organisms have natural barriers, the DNA must be forced in some way. 

Marker-assisted selection (MAS) is a non-invasive, natural approach to plant breeding.

According to the Institute for Responsible Technology website:

Because living organisms have natural barriers to protect themselves against the introduction of DNA from a different species, genetic engineers have to find ways to force the DNA from one organism into another. These methods include:

• Using viruses or bacteria to “infect” animal or plant cells with the new DNA.
• Coating DNA onto tiny metal pellets, and firing it with a special gun into the cells.
• Injecting the new DNA into fertilized eggs with a very fine needle.
• Using electric shocks to create holes in the membrane covering sperm, and then forcing the new DNA into the sperm through these holes.

More information here and here.

9. “Biosolids” is the term given to fertilizer derived from which of the following? Sewage sludge

Biosolids is a term used to refer to treated human waste. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a study of biosolids found 25 active chemicals in each biosolid sample tested. The study raises questions about the “transport, fate, and potential ecological effects of these contaminants once biosolids are applied to agricultural fields, garden plots, and landscaped plants and shrubs.”

More information here and here.

There are a couple more questions on the quiz, but I only included these eight.

Know that there are more chemicals than just what it says on the label.  Why? Any label has not only active ingredients, but it also has inert ingredients.  Up to 3000 chemicals are classified as inert ingredients and can make up over 90% of a product.  They are not required to list these because of trade secrets. If you have concerns about what chemicals may make up inert ingredients, go ahead and call the company and ask. Be proactive!

For any weed or plant you do not want try this recipe to get rid of it:

Homemade Natural Weed Killer 

  • 1 gallon white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. liquid soap
  • 2 tbsp. salt

Combine and shake. Place in spray bottle and spray leaves and stems of weeds only. Avoid surrounding plants.  This really works!

For your garden, plant chives to keep the deer away and marigolds to deter the rabbits.  Here is a great website on various companion plants to keep away pests and pesky animals.

The EPA offers these tips for safe lawn care:

  1. Keep grass at a height of 3 inches.
  2. Make sure mowing blades are sharp.
  3. Water 1 inch per week on average.
  4. Allow your lawn to go dormant in July/August.
  5. Consider non-chemical pest/weed control methods.

Consider grasscycling–leaving the grass clippings. It is very nourishing.

Dandilions are very nutritious! Studies are being done on a possible health benefit for cancer!

I can hardly wait for the next Toxic Talk, airing in June.  Their topic will be safely ridding our home of pests! You can be sure I will be posting the summary of that as soon as it airs!

For more recipes, check out this blog.

Check out Andrea’s blog, MomsAWARE!

Andrea also has a detailed blog post about Natural Lawn Care.

Check out the original broadcast!

Read other Toxic Talk posts!

 

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