Get your 2021 T-shirt!

This year Don’t Spray Me! and its associated groups are offering not a new yard sign (see past signs, still available, here) but our first T-shirt. As pictured, you can order it in black or lime green. They are 100% cotton, high quality, made in USA, and will last through many, many washes!

Cost: $15 each with pick-up in West Chester and $20 with delivery by mail or in person. Please email us HERE and specify color, price, and size (small, medium, large, extra large), and we will invoice you accordingly. (N.b.. the small runs small, about 14-16 in youth size; the others are more true to size.)

Herbicide and Pesticide Drift

Pesticides and herbicides applied by air drift, of course. That’s the point. If they just fall to the ground, they won’t kill off what they are designed to kill off.

If you are seeing plants on your property droop inexplicably, investigate immediately and try to determine if a neighboring property has been subjected to any recent application of herbicides. If you suspect drift, contact PennState Extension immediately for advice. They may be able to test the plants quickly and determine the cause. See more here.

Of course, keep an eye out for any potential toxics being applied anywhere near you and politely inform neighbors that if the wind is blowing your way, you will be documenting any damage to your plants.

If anyone in your family has a personal sensitivity to chemicals, they should apply to be on the state’s Registry of Pesticide Hypersensitive Individuals; see info here. This registry does not include herbicides and fungicides, but chances are, if your neighbor is into poisons of one sort, their or their “landscaping” company is applying others.

The registry does not prevent spraying, but it requires that you receive advance notice, so that you can act accordingly.

The manufacturer of one anti-mosquito spray commonly applied by truck says that it kills mosquitoes at 300 feet. Draw your own conclusions about the scope of potential damage from such sprays.

Would the state spray us anyhow?

The Chesco Health Department has, in the past, been saying that if they did not spray us, the PA DEP would, whether our county or municipality wanted it or not. In fact, if that happened, it would be the first such case in the state since at least 2000. In December we filed a Right To Know request for DEP to find:

“Records, 2000-2020, of any cases of PA DEP itself spraying for mosquito control A) in counties and municipalities which opposed such spraying, or B) in counties that have their own health departments.”

The answer came back with no such cases of spraying adulticide (that is, spray released from trucks into the air), only 27 cases of PA DEP larviciding in Philadelphia between 2004 and 2016. Don’t Spray Me! supports the use of larvicide, as an environmental way to control mosquitoes before they take wing.

This information may be useful if you hear anyone tell you: “Someone will spray us anyhow, so what does it matter?”

Given the evidence, no community should be sprayed unless they make an informed judgment to accept it.

Roundup et al. and cancer

In 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a report identifying glyphosate, malathion and diazinon as probable carcinogens and tetrachlorvinphos and parathion as possible carcinogens (Roundup contains glyphosate but also inert ingredients, some of which the manufacturer is allowed to keep secret):

A Working Group of 17 experts from 11 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on 3–10 March 2015 to review the available published scientific evidence and evaluate the carcinogenicity of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides: diazinon, glyphosate, malathion, parathion, and tetrachlorvinphos. A summary of the evaluations has now been published in The Lancet Oncology. The detailed assessments will be published as Volume 112 of the IARC Monographs….

Download the IARC report here.

This photo of Roundup-induced skin damage from Wikimedia Commons is not necessarily related to cancer but is certainly a warning sign:

File:Blister_roundup.jpg Tael, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just when we thought West Chester Borough was cutting down on road salt waste and pollution

West NIelds St., 600 block, Feb. 15, 2021. See glove for scale.
And not just one pile, alas!

[Update 24 hours later: kudos to whoever — Public Works, individuals, businesses — shoveled up all that salt, as it now is gone and will not drain into Plum Run after all!]

All this sodium chloride is headed for Plum Run, unless someone shovels it up for future use. And this, ironically, at a time when the Borough is expending a lot of effort to prevent Plum Run’s banks from eroding and is financing rain gardens to reduce runoff and attendant chemicals from entering streams.

The same day, the chloride level in Plum Run at the SW corner of the Borough measured 310ppm.

According to Molly Hunt et al., “Chlorides in Fresh Water“:

“In Rhode Island, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has set acceptable chloride concentration exposure limits for freshwater organisms at 860 ppm to prevent acute (immediate) exposure effects and at 230 ppm to prevent chronic (long-term) exposure effects. For drinking water, DEM has set a maximum contaminant level of 250 ppm chloride, which is the point at which water starts to taste salty.”

So 310 ppm is not good. What’s the problem? According to Jeremy Hinsdale, “How Road Salt Harms the Environment“:

“Chloride is toxic to aquatic life, and even low concentrations can produce harmful effects in freshwater ecosystems. High chloride levels in water can inhibit aquatic species’ growth and reproduction, impact food sources, and disrupt osmoregulation in amphibians. Some 40 percent of urban streams in the U.S. already have chloride levels that exceed the safe guidelines for aquatic life.”

“Runoff containing road salt can also cause oxygen depletion in bodies of water. ‘If runoff containing salt goes into a freshwater lake or stream, it will tend to sink towards the bottom, creating a dense layer that can inhibit gas exchange with the overlying water,’ says Juhl. ‘This can lead to the development of low oxygen conditions that are detrimental to fish and other aquatic organisms.’”

Do you want to measure your own local stream’s chloride content ? See Isaak Walton League: Protect streams from salt! for how to get a free kit. Here’s the measurement from Plum Run (the chloride level is shown by the peak of the yellowish area in the sensor on the right of the photo):

Isaak Walton League: Protect streams from salt!

Winter Salt Watch

winter salt watch logo

Road salt (sodium chloride) is everywhere during winter months. It keeps us safe on roads and sidewalks, but it can also pose a threat to fish and wildlife as well as human health.

Fish and bugs that live in freshwater streams can’t survive in extra salty water. And many of us (more than 118 million Americans) depend on local streams for drinking water. Water treatment plants are not equipped to filter out the extra salt, so it can end up in your tap water and even corrode your pipes.

You can take action.

Request your FREE Salt Watch test kit….

(Sign up free for a kit to test a stream here. Salt in streams harms not only fish. but also other aquatic life… and humans!)

Philadelphia bans toxic herbicides

PennPIRG news release, 12/3/20. (If Philadelphia can do it, so can Chester County!)

City passes restrictions to protect public health For Immediate Release

PHILADELPHIA —  City parks and other public spaces throughout Philadelphia will be a lot safer soon after the city council banned the use of toxic herbicides on municipal property. Various provisions of the Healthy Outdoor Public Spaces Act passed on Thursday go into effect in phases over the next three years. Beginning next July, the city council and the public must be notified of any pesticide use on city grounds. More importantly, in 18 months, the law will prohibit certain toxic chemicals on all city property except golf courses and athletic fields, which must comply no more than 36 months from now. …

read more at PennPIRG

Sustainably grown US soy beans?

According to the chemical manufacturing giant DuPont, “U.S. Soy Launches The Pilot Phase Of Sustainably Grown U.S. Soy Mark.” This sounds like a useful idea:

Whatever you make, U.S. Soy makes you more sustainable. That is why the food industry is innovating to improve sustainability in their product supply chains from farm to fork. By labeling soy ingredients with the new Sustainably Grown U.S. Soy mark, you are recognizing that those soybeans originated from a system of continuous environmental improvement.

From January 19 through March 19, the United Soybean Board (USB) is teaming up with partners from Soylent and DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences (DuPont) that will be participating in a pilot program to market their products and ingredients as being made with Sustainably Grown U.S. Soy.

The new mark denotes agricultural practices, such as no-till and cover crops, that deliver sustainable outcomes in biodiversity, soil carbon, water management, and overall soil conservation. U.S. Soy delivers the food industry a quality ingredient to help them meet their sustainability goals by prioritizing soil health and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy usage.

Customers can be assured that products carrying the mark contain soy ingredients that:

  • Were grown in the United States
  • Are compliant with all U.S. environmental regulations
  • Protect highly erodible soils and wetlands
  • Were grown on family farms with responsible labor practices

The plan bears watching and questioning:

• Sustainability is fine, but does this program permit herbicides, pesticides, and genetically engineered seeds?

• How are “family farms” defined? DuPont’s image below hardly looks like a family soy bean field:

Local sustainability activism panel Dec. 11

West Chester Green Team

Local sustainability activism panel: Fourth Annual Environmental Film and Forum Series at WCU sponsored by the Office of Sustainability at West Chester University and the West Chester Green Team, in memory of Graham Hudgings.

December 11, 7pm, via live internet: Local sustainability activism, featuring 5 local panelists on what campus and community groups can do to promote sustainability, outreach techniques, working successfully with non-profit and public entities, and Local Environmental Empowerment.

Register here to receive the link.

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DSM endorses Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

At its November meeting, the Don’t Spray Me! board voted to sign on to support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate compact designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI not only helps reduce PA’s inordinate emissions (4th highest state in the country) but also has increased jobs in the renewable energy sector and reduced energy costs.

In June, Gov. Tom Wolf issued an executive order (download here), directing the Dept. of Environmental Protection to propose rules for bringing our state into compliance with RGGI; but interests in the PA General Assembly are trying to block this important effort.

See also “It’s not too late: RGGI can help Pa. combat climate change,” guest column by State Sen. Katie Muth and Amanda Lapham of PennEnvironment, Daily Local News, Nov 27, 2020.

Climate change is very relevant to DSM’s concerns, because air pollution, including the fossil fuel emissions that exacerbate climate change, have been shown to weaken human respiratory systems and render people (including children) more susceptible to serious complications and death from diseases like Covid-19. See more here.

If you would like to show your support as a concerned citizen, please fill out the petition at bit.ly/RGGIforPA. Here is the text of the petition.

Proposed Rulemaking: CO2 Budget Trading Program (#7-559)

To the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board:

We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, are submitting our public comment in support of Pennsylvania’s establishing a carbon dioxide budget trading program and joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), one of the nation’s most successful state-level programs for fighting climate change.

With each day that passes, climate change becomes a more urgent threat to our Commonwealth. Local impacts of the climate crisis in Pennsylvania include heat waves, worsening air quality that harms public health, more insect-borne diseases, more intense storms and flash flooding, and agricultural losses.

As the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the nation, Pennsylvania has a responsibility to reduce our emissions, and joining RGGI will put us on the right path. Over the past twelve years, this bipartisan program has had remarkable success for the participating Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Since 2008:

  • CO2 emissions in from RGGI states have fallen by 47%, outpacing the rest of the country by 90%;
  • Reductions in other air pollutants, including SO2 and NOx, that can lead to premature deaths, heart attacks, and respiratory illnesses have resulted in an additional $5.7 billion in health and productivity benefits;
  • Electricity prices in RGGI states have fallen by 5.7%, while prices have increased in the rest of the country by 8.6%;
  • The combined economies of the RGGI states have grown by 47%, during the first ten years of the program, outpacing growth in the rest of the country by 31%.

If Pennsylvania joins the program, it could reduce its carbon emissions by 188 million tons over its first decade in the program — that’s equivalent to taking 35 million cars off the road. Moreover, joining RGGI will not only cut carbon pollution, but also reduce nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution, yielding significant health benefits for Pennsylvanians. DEP projects that by joining RGGI, Pennsylvania will avoid hundreds of premature deaths and 30,000 hospital visits for respiratory illness such as asthma by 2030.

Critically, participation in RGGI will enable Pennsylvania to create jobs while reducing our greenhouse gases. DEP estimates that Pennsylvania would see a net increase of over 27,000 jobs by participating in the program.

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must act now to transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. RGGI is one of the best tools we have to do so and would create a solid foundation for other important policy steps, like expanding goals for renewable energy. For the sake of our climate, our environment, and our health, we urge Pennsylvania’s leaders to join RGGI without delay.

Graphic from PA DEP: