Don’t Spray Me! events


If you can’t see the calendar above, click here.
See also the Chesco Environment Calendar here.

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West Chester Green Team’s first annual organic garden tour

On Saturday, June 29th, about 100 West Chester residents toured organic gardens in the West Chester borough. Gardens that were toured showcased vegetables, flowers, rain gardens, tower gardens, and much more. The goal of the tour was to educate residents about the many different types of gardens they can have, even in a small space.

Denise and garden 2

A popular attraction of the tour was Councilwoman Denise Polk’s backyard. Although Polk only has less than one-tenth of an acre, the space boasts more than 50 different plantings, in addition to a honey bee house. Polk suggests eating veggies fresh off the vine, and keeping chemical use to a minimum or not at all. (Photo by Bill Rettew: “Checking out Councilwoman Denise Polk’s backyard organic garden”)

In total there were 10 stops along the tour, with at least one site in each ward of the borough: in backyards, at West Chester University, and at the Melton Center.

Margaret Hudgings is an active West Chester Green Team leader, and she helped to organize the event. She was excited to see that a main goal of the tour had been accomplished; “The tour shows people that you can have a fantastic garden even if you have a small yard.”

West Chester Green Team plans to run this tour again next year, with some changes and new gardens featured.

For more details and photos from the tour, please visit “West Chester Green Team shines spotlight on local organic gardens” by Bill Rettew in the Daily Local News.

Christiane's garden 2
Christiane Torres’ garden

Study finds that planting trees would be the most effective method to combat climate change

A study led by researchers at ETH Zurich found that forest restoration is our best bet for combating climate change. The study used earth system models to predict how much trees we could plant globally, and how much carbon those trees could store. It turns out that we have enough space for at least 0.9 billion hectares of more trees! If those new forests reached maturity, they would store 205 gigatonnes of carbon – that’s two thirds of the carbon generated by humans since the industrial revolution.

What’s great about this restoration approach is that there are so many benefits. Planting trees requires no new technology or industry, and we get to surround ourselves with more nature. Afforestation also creates more habitat for our furry friends. Habitat loss is one of the leading causes of species loss.

Our results highlight the opportunity of climate change mitigation through tree restoration but also the urgent need for action.

“The global tree restoration potential” Bastin et al

The study also found that more than 50% of the tree restoration potential can be found in only six countries: Russia, United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China. This stresses the important responsibility of some of the world’s leading economies, including the US.

So where do we go from here? The report suggests that “we need better country-level forest accounting, which is critical for effective management and restoration strategies.”

This places ecosystem restoration as the most effective solution at our disposal to mitigate climate change.

“The global tree restoration potential” Bastin et al

Home Depot, Lowe’s, and more remove harmful phthalates from flooring products

Success! – Home improvement retailers follow through on commitments to remove phthalates from flooring. The environmental organization Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF) celebrates this recent win in the reduction of phthalate use in home remodeling products. In 2015, SCHF secured commitments from home remodeling stores Home Depot, Lowe’s, Lumber Liquidators, and Menards to eliminate added phthalates from flooring. But first – what are phthalates and why are we concerned about them?

Phthalates are a class of chemical compounds commonly used in home flooring, along with plastic containers, cosmetics, and other personal care products. Phthalates are so widely used that they have made their way into our bodies. Once phthalates are inside the body, they break down into metabolites and pass through. The CDC and FDA have not said outright that these chemicals are harmful to us, although many are concerned that prolonged exposure may cause adverse health effects.

This is why SCHF started a collaboration with the Ecology Center, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, and Healthy Building Network, to reduce phthalates in popular home remodeling products. Tile samples recently taken from Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Lumber Liquidators, show no measurable amounts of phthalates – that’s great!

Nowadays, you can’t escape manufactured chemicals – they surround us everywhere we go, they’re in our homes, our food and water, and ultimately in our own bodies. So let’s applaud these stores that are reducing their contribution of chemicals to the environment! Please see SCHF’s full article and visit their site to learn more about minimizing your exposure to chemicals.

DeltaGard: worrisome specifications

Even if your street isn’t sprayed, don’t think you don’t need to take precautions!

A nearby DeltaGard applicator specialist working with Bayer products and with several decades’ experience in the business, but who does not wish to be identified, tells us the spray can drift 300 feet and does not tend to dissipate into the air. Of course, exactly where it goes depends on wind direction and speed. The manufacturer’s information documents high mosquito kill rates at 300 and even 400 feet.

A 2015 EPA memo (download here: EPA deltamethrin-mosquito-adulticide takes as well-founded Bayer’s “mortality” rate as “100% for deltamethrin, even at 300 feet from the point of application.”

This is why we are calling for a buffer zone of at least 300 feet around vulnerable non-targets, such as children in schools and day care centers, registered hypersensitive individuals, bee hives, and bodies of water where fish and amphibians are sickened or killed by pesticides. If mosquitoes are exterminated at that distance, the toxins are a danger to other species as well, including humans, and we know that smaller children are more vulnerable than most adults.

The above-mentioned mortality rate, as the EPA points out, is for “easily controlled” mosquito species as opposed to “those with more widespread resistance to organophosphates and/or pyrethroids.” Naturally, the more that mosquitoes are sprayed with a given pesticide, the more they become resistant to it. Such acquired resistance is a very good reason not to spray at all unless there is a serious health emergency, which becomes more likely as our climate warms and new-to-us mosquito-borne diseases move our way.

You can download the manufacturer’s (that’s Bayer) label for this product here: DeltaGard [label – mosquitos]. Note that this is specifically for the wide-area mosquito spray; other labels yo might see may pertain to other DeltaGard products.

The various DeltaGards all have deltamethrin as their active ingredient, but concentration and added ingredients may differ. See our earlier remarks on “turf and ornamental” DeltaGard here.

This is not easy reading but let’s focus on:

to control adult mosquitoes, black flies, gnats, non-biting midges, stable flies, horse flies, deer flies, sheep flies, horn flies, and nuisance flying insects such as houseflies or blow flies.

It’s hard to love all those insects, but let’s point out that they are part of nature and are important food sources for birds, other insects, reptiles, and amphibians. And those others flying around outdoors have no health implications for people.

• For best results, apply when insects are most active and meteorological conditions are conducive to keeping the spray cloud in the air column close to the ground. An inversion of air temperatures and a light breeze is preferable. Application during the cooler hours of the night or early morning is recommended. Apply when wind speed is equal to or greater than 1 mph.

Who has an anemometer when you need one? If you do, please set it up if spraying occurs! And how do we tell if there is a temperature inversion (meaning warmer air over cooler air)? Of course, those who wish the spray to remain concentrated at ground level want an inversion; the rest of us would be happy with the normal pattern, causing the spray to dissipate more rapidly. Meteorological help needed!

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS

This product is extremely toxic to fresh water and estuarine fish and invertebrates. Runoff from treated areas into a body of water may be hazardous to fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Do not apply over bodies of water (lakes, rivers, permanent streams, natural ponds, commercial fish ponds, swamps, marshes, or estuaries), except when necessary to target areas where adult mosquitoes are present, and weather conditions will facilitate movement of applied material away from the water in order to minimize incidental deposition into the water body. Do not contaminate water when disposing of equipment rinsate or wash waters.

When used for mosquito adulticiding;

This pesticide is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow drift when bees are foraging the treatment area, except when applications are made to prevent or control a threat to public and / or animal health determined by a state, tribal, or local health or vector control agency on the basis of documented evidence of disease causing agents in vector mosquitoes, or the occurrence of mosquito-borne disease in animal or human populations, or if specifically approved by the state or tribe during a natural disaster recovery effort.

Please record any application over or next to bodies of water! Let’s bear in mind the condition that “weather conditions will facilitate movement of applied material away from the water in order to minimize incidental deposition into the water body.”

Rain or thunderstorms will do the opposite: wash the pesticide, both airborne and deposited on streets and other drainage areas, downhill and directly into surface drainage. If you ever see that happen, please photo the drainage water with a time stamp. Those fresh water fish and invertebrates are important ecological factors!

Greenpeace discovers biodiversity hotspot in Philippines to be packed with plastic

A crab was trapped inside a discarded Zagu milktea cup in Verde Island Passage, the epicenter of global marine biodiversity, in Batangas City, the Philippines.

Recently, Greenpeace Philippines has documented plastic pollution in Verde Island Passage, a hotspot of marine biodiversity. This passage is extremely rich in marine life,  and it is dubbed the Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity, and the Center of the Center of the Marine Biodiversity of the World.

Greenpeace performed a 3-day underwater exploration which revealed that the area is littered with plastic bags, “some showing visible signs of being among the corals for a very long time”. A majority of the litter was plastic produced by large companies such as Nestle and Unilever. In fact, a recent report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) found that Nestle and Unilever are responsible for a quarter of throwaway plastic driving the plastic pollution crisis in the Philippines.

If big companies don’t respond to our calls for reduction in single-use plastic production, these places of “paradise” like Verde Island Passage, will be lost – Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Philippines Campaigner

Don’t Spray Me! and the West Chester Green Team encourage you as a consumer to reduce your use of single-use plastics to prevent further destruction of our beautiful environment.

To learn more and see photos and videos of the waste found in Verde Island Passage, please visit Greenpeace’s article.

 

Beware pesticides when you travel

(And of course at home as well.)

Recent tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic are still under investigation and more than one cause could be at fault. But they, like the recent hefty court judgments against the maker of the herbicide Roundup, are a warning that we can’t be too careful in checking out our surroundings for toxins.

From “Crisis Hits Dominican Republic Over Deaths of U.S. Tourists” by Simon Romero and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, New York Times, 6/23/19:

“Some of the earlier cases did seem to be consistent with organophosphate poisoning,” said Dana B. Barr, a professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

Dr. Barr pointed to a case in the United States Virgin Islands in 2015, when a Delaware family of four was seriously injured after being exposed to a pesticide when the apartment below them was fumigated.

In poisoning cases, Dr. Barr said, the problem often stems from the pesticide not being properly contained. The chemicals could seep into a vent that is not adequately sealed, or be sucked inside by a hotel air conditioner///.

In the Virgin Islands case, “Jose Rivera, a Terminix International branch manager in St. Croix, knowingly used banned pesticides containing methyl bromide at several locations in the Virgin Islands, according to the Justice Department.” He was sentenced earlier this year to 12 months in prison and Terminix paid the family, which was sickened with various degrees of paralysis by the pesticide, $90,000,000 in damages–small comfort for the permanent horror they underwent.

According to the AP article later in 2015, the year of the poisoning, “Pesticide that poisoned Delaware family still in use” by Danico Coto in Delaware Online:

The EPA’s regional administrator, Judith Enck, said she and Puerto Rico’s Agriculture Department have found at least several other examples of prohibited chemicals being used at hotels. She recommends anyone staying at a hotel in Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands ask if their room has been treated with pesticides and open windows to ventilate it when they arrive just to be safe.

“When you’re on vacation, the last thing you’re thinking about is if your hotel room or Airbnb (rental) is soaked in pesticide,” Enck said. “You’re at their mercy….”

Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, even in Chester County–where can people feel safe unless there is a whole new consciousness of the dangers of spreading toxins around where we live and breathe? And what individual, company or government agency would want to be using these substances when the stakes are as high as death or paralysis… and $90,000,000?

From Graham Hudgings (1970-2017) to Borough Council, 2013

Graham Hudgings, the founder and inspiration for our work, wrote to West Chester Borough Council on August 20, 2013, to ask them to protect residents against truck-disseminated insecticides. It is preceded by a note to then Mayor (now State Representative) Carolyn Comitta, who has always been very supportive of our efforts.

Hi Carolyn. I am writing to see if you would be willing to read the email below at the borough council meeting under agenda item #4, “Comments, suggestions, petitions etc… from residents in attendance regarding items not on the agenda.” I am not able to attend tonight due to a prior commitment. If so, I will print out copies of the ordinance mentioned in the email and drop them off to you to distribute at the meeting. Thank you. –Graham

Dear Borough Council, 

My name is Graham Hudgings and I live in the borough of West Chester on West Union Street.  I am on the PA state pesticide hypersensitivty registry.   Last year my neighborhood was fogged with the pesticide Permanone by the Chester County Health Department.  Prior to the spraying, I was in contact with the Chester County Health Department to see if my house or block could be exempted, as is a common practice in other communities.  I was told no. 

Since the application I have been experiencing a variety of health symptoms, which disappear when I leave the treated area and return upon my returning to the treated area.  I contacted the NPIC (National Pesticide Information Center) and they indicated that the reaction is most likely attributable to piperonyl butoxide, a catalyst chemical ingredient in Permanone which has been shown to linger for years after application. It is noteworthy that there have been no safety studies conducted on pesticides with catalyst agents and that their use has been banned in many communities, including New York.

I did some research on mosquito spraying and the chemicals used and found that Washington DC, Nashville TN, Ft. Worth TX, Boulder Colorado, Chapel Hill NC and hundreds of other communities around the country have either banned spraying for mosquitoes or never practiced it in the first place since it has been shown to be ineffective at controlling either the mosquito population or the West Nile Virus, has numerous environmental consequences, and is costly.

I have urged the Chester County Health department to halt the practice until a thorough study of the implications for the health of our community can be conducted, to no avail.   And so, I am writing to you to see what can be done about the matter.  I have provided a copy of an ordinance from the town of Lyndhurst, Ohio, outlining their rationale for banning spraying.   It does a very good job of explaining the issues. 

Individuals concerned about mosquitoes can take action to reduce their exposure by applying insect repellent, wearing long sleeves, and eliminating standing water on their properties.  No amount of spraying will eliminate mosquitoes.   

The indiscriminate spraying of chemicals on entire neighborhoods against the wishes of many residents, a practice which studies have shown is not helpful at reducing either the mosquito population or controlling the spread of the virus, is dangerous and unwarranted.  

The use of larvacides in mosquito breeding areas and community education have been shown to be safe and effective methods of controlling mosquito populations.

Thank you to Mayor Comitta for delivering this message and to the Council for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely, Graham Hudgings 

June 29 Organic Vegetable Garden Tour in West Chester Borough

West Chester borough is full of beautiful and vivacious gardens you may not even know about! Come along June 29th for a tour of the organic gardens of West Chester, sponsored by the West Chester Green Team and West Chester University’s Office of Sustainability. A food garden from every ward of the borough will be featured, including West Chester University’s vegetable gardens, plus a rain garden installed by the Borough.

A sample of one of the gardens you will get to visit on the tour, growing here (all organically!): Asparagus, lettuce, kale, beans, and much more.

You will have the opportunity to meet greeters with information about each garden, and ask any questions you may have. If you’re looking for inspiration or help with your own gardens, this is the tour to go on!

The event is taking place June 29th, 11am-3pm. The tour route is posted below so that you can walk, bike, or drive to the gardens at your own pace. Or, hop in our van at noon at WC Friends Meeting, 425 N. High St.! The event is 100% FREE.

Courtney Bodle, an organizer of the event, says “this is a casual event… a day full of fun and light gardening education. A day to meet like-minded people, talk about green ideas, and work towards a sustainable future…. “!

wcgart1

See you there!

How to celebrate Pollinator Week 2019! (6/17-6/23)

In 2007, the Senate designated a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” – a week to raise awareness about the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. During this week, people all over the country celebrate the valuable ecosystem services provided by birds, bees, butterflies, and beetles! So how can you take part this year?

Here are just a few activities you can do, from pollinator.org

  • Display pollinator artwork and outreach materials
  • Host a pollinator-themed meal or mixer
  • Pollinator planting day at your school, office, local park, or library
  • Build native bee houses
  • Screen a pollinator film (such as Bee Movie!)
  • Plant habitat in your backyard using native plants
  • Host a nature walk or pollinator expert lecture

Additionally, check out 7 Things You Can Do for Pollinators

  1. Plant for pollinators
  2. Reduce or eliminate the impact of pesticides
  3. Register as a share site
  4. Reach out to others – inform and inspire!
  5. Support local bees and beekeepers
  6. Conserve all of our resources; use less and reduce our impact
  7. Support the work of groups promoting science based, practical efforts for pollinators

For more information, please visit pollinator.org where you can learn even more about pollinators and how we can help them.