Non-toxic weed-killers save taxpayer money, protect health

Letter from Ted Jankowski, seacoastonline (Portsmouth NH), Aug 20, 2017

The city of Portsmouth claims it’s too expensive to kill sidewalk weeds in a way that doesn’t endanger our health. I disagree.

Simple math shows that the city is shelling out 13 times more of our tax dollars to spread expensive, potentially carcinogenic toxins to kill weeds on our sidewalks and public places than it cost us for a simple homegrown vinegar-based natural alternative! And using an off the shelf organic product would cost about the same as the city is spending now – not 10 times more as the city has claimed.

Here’s the detail: In an April 2017 report to the City Council, our city public works department claimed that it tried the organic herbicide Avenger, but that a “major drawback” was that it cost “up to 10 times” the price of conventional herbicides like Roundup or Rodeo.

This got my financial brain working – 10 times more expensive? After four outrageously time-consuming Right-to-Know law requests – that made me wonder why I couldn’t easily get this information online on the city website – I finally found out in April the city used Roundup Pro Max to kill weeds in our public places. An online check of Walmart retail prices showed that this costs $45.53 a gallon. Meanwhile, a gallon of the organic weed-killer Avenger costs $51.30 – about $6 or just 13 percent more – but its application doesn’t require expensive licensed chemical folks, so using it would save money or break even – not cost 10 times more. So what gives?

Then I decided to compare the cost of the weed-killer the city is using on our sidewalks and public places with the homegrown “weed-killer” we (and many others) use to kill weeds on our brick patio and gravel driveway. We use a mix of one gallon of white vinegar, two cups of Epsom salts, and quarter-cup of dish detergent, which I used just last Sunday. Three days later, even with a little rain in-between, all the weeds were dead down to the roots! The Walmart online cost for this very effective weed-killer? Only $3.29 per gallon versus $45.53 per gallon for Roundup Pro. The city has also stated that Roundup only needs to be used twice a year, so it’s a better deal. Guess what? We only need to use our vinegar-based remedy twice a year too!

So the basic math? The city is spending at least 13 times more ($45.53 per gallon for Roundup, roughly the same as the organic product if you factor in application savings for that versus $3.39 per gallon for a simple vinegar-based method) – to spread dangerous toxins to kill weeds in our public places – when a simple natural alternative costs 13 times less. (And none of this even considers the potential health costs of any adverse effects of human or canine exposure to toxic weed-killers).

Now the real question is why haven’t eight of our nine city councilors done this basic math? I encourage the City Council to look at the overwhelming scientific data on the dangers of toxic weed-killers and the real costs of using them.

Please follow the lead of many U.S. cities and other countries and vote for the city to immediately stop using toxic synthetic chemicals on public property, encourage toxin-free property maintenance, and educate property-owners in safe, organic ways to care for our property. Let’s switch immediately to proven, safe, organic, sustainable ways to kill weeds.

Please help us protect our kids, our pets, and our taxpayers’ wallets by making Portsmouth a non-toxic community!

Ted Jankowski is a former Portsmouth deputy city manager and Portsmouth resident.

Advertisements

Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry and Application

Public and commercial spray operators are required to give advance notice of spraying to registered individuals. In addition, the Chester County Health Department grants registered hypersensitive individuals an exclusion zone around their residence to spare them from chemical exposure.

To register, download the form at the Penn State Extensionsite, print, fill out, and get physician’s signed approval.

Background info at Penn State Extension includes:

“The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) maintains a registry of individuals hypersensitive to pesticides. It is a listing of locations for people who have been verified by a physician to be excessively or abnormally sensitive to pesticides. These hypersensitive individuals may request to have listings of their home, place of employment, school (if a student), and vacation home placed in the Registry. A person will not be considered included in the Registry unless their name appears in the current published Registry.”

Add your name to demand the EPA stop Dow Chemical from poisoning our children!

Sign the petition here. Background there:

Public health advocates and the EPA have been pushing to ban the use of the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos for years. But even with substantial evidence that chlorpyrifos can interfere with children’s brain development and expose farmworkers to serious health risks, Dow Chemical – a company that sells these harmful pesticides regardless of the dangerous consequences – has been pushing the Trump administration to ignore the facts and let this poisoning continue unchecked.

Now, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is siding with Dow instead of the American people, reversing a proposed ban to prevent the use of this hazardous chemical on our food. We can’t stand idly by as Dow Chemical buys its way into the ear of Donald Trump to keep destroying our people and our planet with these highly toxic chemicals.

Scientists agree this pesticide shouldn’t be anywhere near the foods we eat, and even doctors are speaking out against this dangerous decision. The EPA exists to protect Americans – but under Scott Pruitt, all it’s doing is protecting the profits of corporations like Dow at the expense of everyone else. We need 100,000 people to speak out and show the EPA that we won’t stand for this dangerous scheme.

Add your name to demand the EPA stop Dow Chemical from poisoning our children!

Sponsors:
Chispa
Daily Kos
Environmental Working Group
Friends of the Earth
League of Conservation Voters
Organic Consumers Association
Sierra Club
The Nation

Environmental Film Series: “Unacceptable Levels”

“Unacceptable Levels” (which should lead us all to scrutinize anew the pesticide residues in what we eat, drink, and breathe) was shown on Sept. 14, 2017, sponsored by the Sierra Club, Don’t Spray Me!, the WCU Sustainability Program, the WCU Geography & Planning Club, and 4CP, in memory of Graham Hudgings.

Included were an Introduction by State Rep. Carolyn Comitta and Q&A led by Dr. Joan Welch of WCU, as well as food and granting of awards by Dianne Herrin, chair of the West Chester Sustainability Advisory Committee. Photos by Taka Nagai:

Lincoln County, OR, Adopts First-in-Nation Ban of Aerial Pesticide Spray


OREGON: The election results from Lincoln County, OR, are in: Lincoln residents adopted the first-in-the nation countywide Freedom from Aerial Sprayed Pesticides ordinance by 61 votes. Lincoln residents are the first in Oregon to secure people’s environmental and democratic rights, challenging the claimed “rights” of corporations. They are also the first to secure the rights of nature to exist and flourish, joining a growing number of communities across the U.S. and globally who are recognizing ecosystem rights. Measure 21-177 bans aerial sprayed pesticides as a violation of those rights.

The measure was ahead by 27 votes in the ballot count on election night (May 16th). However, there were 100 unsigned ballots that could still be counted towards the total. Those voters had until May 30th to sign their ballots, which were then added to the final count and secured the win.

Lincoln County residents have faced decades of toxic aerial pesticide spraying by the industrial timber industry. Timber corporations repeatedly aerial spray toxic pesticides on clearcuts to kill off “competing” vegetation and animals that threaten newly planted and young commodity crop trees. Residents have been working with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) since 2013 to protect themselves from the dangerous practice. …

read more at CELDF

 

It’s not just about the pesticides

Since 2015, with many others, I have been part of the West Chester PA activist group Don’t Spray Me, whose immediate purpose is to cut down on both mosquitoes and the pesticides sprayed to kill them.

The Don’t Spray Me effort is not “just” about mosquitoes and even not “just” about pesticides.

The short version is that if we, as individuals, organizations, and municipalities, can prevent mosquitoes from breeding in standing water, then we won’t be threatened with toxic air-borne spraying that has less lasting negative impact on mosquito populations than on many other vulnerable species, including but not limited to hypersensitive humans, beneficial insects like bees, and some other species.

Many things we believe in are under assault today. Americans have become very skeptical of trusting the status quo, and we rightly worry what could happen next if we aren’t vigilant.

When I have the mosquito conversation with anyone who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, they usually recall being exposed to DDT in their neighborhoods, when that chemical was being sprayed liberally in a futile attempt to save elm trees from Dutch Elm Disease. Many of us recall basking in the cooling DDT mist as it drifted down from the treetops….

read more at Politics, A View from West Chester

Garden for Wildlife

Many of us in Chester County are dedicated to our gardens; one of the rewards is knowing that we are welcoming wildlife.

The National Wildlife Federation has a “Garden for Wildlife” certification to encourage gardeners. All of us who oppose the use of unnecessary pesticides and herbicides will be glad to see that the conditions include:

Organic Practices:
• Eliminate Chemical Pesticides
• Eliminate Chemical Fertilizers

Risk analysis needed before spraying permethrin

Contributed by one of Dontsprayme’s consulting scientists, in response to spraying activity this summer

I am concerned about the recent decision to spray in an area of Chester County for West Nile carrying mosquitoes, considering what is currently known about permethrin, the availability of less toxic alternatives and methods for mosquito control, and the demonstrated resistance of mosquito populations to this pesticide. Even if there are some West Nile positive mosquitoes in the vicinity, has a risk analysis been done to see that the perceived benefits of spraying outweigh the long term risk to human health?

While permethrin was studied at length in 1994 by the US Army and found to be relatively safe, this early study should be taken in context: more American soldiers have died from insect-borne illness than of enemy fire. For troops deploying to tropical areas, and who have already willingly put their lives on the line for our country, permethrin is the lesser of two evils. Since the 1994 study, there has been a great deal of research into the toxicity of permethrin, and the picture grows more and more grim with the passing years. Work that supports the use of permethrin, such as the EPA’s cumulative risk assessment (2011)[1], is very thorough at the surface, but consider limited endpoints: specifically, those derived from the a priori known ways in which pyrethrins and pyrethroids disrupt neural function.

As complete as the EPA study seems to be, its flaw is in its failure to consider other endpoints besides neural function. A recent review article[2] identified 29 studies in which permethrin-induced toxicity was identified in various species (and cited a number of other studies where human toxicity was shown). It also goes into far more detail than the Army study about the mechanisms of toxicity in the various bodily systems.

From the article:

Although it was believed that PER showed low mammalian toxicity, an increasing number of studies have shown that PER can also cause a variety of toxicities in animals and humans, such as neurotoxicity (Carloni et al., 2012, 2013; Falcioni et al., 2010; Gabbianelli et al., 2009b; Nasuti et al., 2014, 2008, 2007b), immunotoxicity (Gabbianelli et al., 2009a; Jin et al., 2010; Olgun and Misra, 2006), cardiotoxicity (Vadhana et al., 2010, 2011a, 2011b, 2013), hepatotoxicity (Gabbianelli et al., 2004, 2013), reproductive (Issam et al., 2011), genotoxic (Turkez and Aydin, 2012, 2013; Turkez and Togar, 2011; Turkez et al., 2012), and haematotoxic (Nasuti et al., 2003) effects, digestive system toxicity (Mahmoud et al., 2012; Sellami et al., 2014b, 2015), anti-androgenic activity (Christen et al., 2014; Xu et al., 2008), fetotoxicity (Erkmen, 2015), and cytotoxicity (Hu et al., 2010) in vertebrates and invertebrates.

Additionally (Vadhana et al., 2013):

Early life environmental exposure to PER could play a critical role in the onset of age-related diseases (Carloni et al., 2012, 2013; Fedeli et al., 2013; Gabbianelli et al., 2013; Vadhana et al., 2011b). Previous findings demonstrate that early life pesticide exposure to low doses of the PER insecticide has long-term consequences leading to toxic effects such as cardiac hypotrophy, increased Ca2 ©≠ level and increased Nrf2 gene expression….

In fact, there is evidence that effects of this nature are transgenerational and that there are epigenetic changes that ensue due to exposure. What’s clear is that the pesticide research community has NOT signed off on the harmlessness of such pesticides to humans despite the EPA guidelines or material safety data sheets. 

In addition its toxicity, it’s also fairly clear that mosquitoes evolve resistance to permethrin and other pesticides relatively rapidly. From Ramkumar et al (2015), after exposure to permethrin, within 10 generations, the 50% lethal dose concentration (LC50) of permethrin increased 17-fold. 

Ramkumar, G., & Shivakumar, M. S. (2015). Laboratory development of permethrin resistance and cross-resistance pattern of Culex quinquefasciatus to other insecticides. Parasitology Research, 114(7), 2553–2560.

Research on West Nile carrying mosquitoes indicates that when field collected mosquitos were tested for pesticide resistance, in one case there was a 299-fold increase in dosage to reach the LC50.

Kasai, S., Shono, T., Komagata, O., Tsuda, Y., Kobayashi, M., Motoki, M., … Tomita, T. (2007). Insecticide resistance in potential vector mosquitoes for West Nile virus in Japan. Journal of Medical Entomology, 44(5), 822–829.

An alternative to using such pesticides is a larvicide, BT, which has been studied extensively. This appears to be safe at the moment (except for mega-doses, or deviant genetic strains), and is a champ at killing mosquito larvae. 

Ibrahim, M. A., Griko, N., Junker, M., & Bulla, L. A. (2010). Bacillus thuringiensis. Bioengineered Bugs, 1(1), 31–50.

So the question is: if permethrin has already been shown to be dangerous to animals and humans AND it’s been shown to have diminishing effects on mosquitoes, and there are alternative measures that work, why is there such a strong push to spray? One must remember that where spraying of this nature is used by the WHO, it is used as the lesser of two evils in regions where the risk of mosquito-borne illness and subsequent death or disability is high enough to justify its use. Are there enough cases of West Nile in our area that spraying is justified? Has there been enough sampling of mosquito populations? What is the correlation between the ratio of mosquitoes with West Nile and the number of diagnosed cases? Are larvicide or other control measures being optimally used?

As a scientist who teaches the physical sciences and who does health-related research, I’m struggling to understand how the data can possibly support a decision to spray.

[1] US Environmental Protection Agency; Office of Pesticide Programs. (2011). “Pyrethrins/Pyrethroid Cumulative Risk Assessment.” Retrieved from US Environmental Protection Agency.

[2] Xu Wang et al., “Permethrin-induced oxidative stress and toxicity and metabolism. A review,” Environmental Research, Volume 149, August 2016, Pages 86-104.

Aimed at Zika Mosquitoes, Spray Kills Millions of Honeybees

By ALAN BLINDER, New York Times, SEPT. 1, 2016 [n.b. the spraying agency made several “human errors” in this case: spraying a toxic chemical other than as a last resort; not giving adequate public notice, especially to beekeepers; and spraying when bees are active during morning hours and on a hot day. If you ever observe private companies spraying airborne pesticide at times or locations where bees could be active, please document details and let us know.]

The Monday morning scene at Juanita Stanley’s apiary in Summerville, S.C., was ghastly and stunningly quiet: Everywhere one looked were clumps of honeybees, dead after a dousing on Sunday with the potent pesticide with which the local authorities had intended to kill mosquitoes.

“There was no need for a bee suit Monday morning to go down there, because there was no activity. It was silent,” Ms. Stanley said on Thursday. “Honestly, I just fell to the ground. I was crying, and I couldn’t quit crying, and I was throwing up.”

For Ms. Stanley and her business, the death toll easily exceeds two million bees, and Dorchester County officials are still tabulating how many more might have been killed when a day of aerial spraying, scheduled to combat mosquitoes that could be carrying viruses like Zika, went awry. The apparently inadvertent extermination, the county administrator said, happened after a county employee failed to notify Ms. Stanley’s business, which the administrator said should have been alerted about the spraying strategy. Some hobbyists were also caught by surprise.

“We’ve learned that the beekeeping community in Dorchester County, and in that area in particular, is larger than we were aware of,” Jason L. Ward, the county administrator, said in an interview. “Our idea is to balance working with them with the issue of public safety.”

Concerned about the spread of the Zika virus across the South, local officials on Sunday targeted a 15-square mile area of the county, which is near Charleston, with naled. The pesticide, which has been in use in the United States for more than 50 years, is a common tool for mosquito control, but federal officials have said the chemical can be harmful to honeybees while also posing brief risks to aquatic invertebrates and terrestrial wildlife….

read more at New York Times. Also see Melissa Breyer, “Massive bee death after South Carolina sprays for Zika mosquitoes, treehugger, 9/1/16, and “‘Like it’s been nuked’: Millions of bees dead after South Carolina sprays for Zika mosquitoes,” Washington Post, 9/1/16 (see also videos and photos there).

More technical: “NALED Insecticide Fact Sheet” at No Spray Coalition. A dangerous spray, no doubt about it!

What we can learn from anti-zika spraying

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 8/9/16

Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and people.

So, health authorities have been working on the twin challenges of eradicating mosquitoes and educating people.

Transmission of Zika virus from mosquitoes to people (and vice versa) in the continental US has occurred only in one small tropical enclave: a square mile (or now it seems even less) of Miami. Pennsylvanians might worry about catching zika from travelers returning from the Rio Olympics but not from mosquitoes this summer so far north. (1)

However, we should be worrying about the effects of being sprayed with pesticides, of which there is really no safe level for the environment and human exposure.

As someone involved in the current campaign to cut down on both mosquitoes and pesticide spraying in West Chester, I think we can learn a lot from zika, even if it is not currently being transmitted by mosquitoes anywhere near us.

Many insects, like the viruses that attack the human body, reproduce quickly and can develop resistance to whatever we throw against them. As doctors turn from one antibiotic to another to find one that still kills a given virus, so health officials experiment to see what still kills different mosquito species.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, the chief transmitter of zika, is particularly problematic for traditional mosquito elimination programs and the standard anti-mosquito pesticide permethrin, a pesticide usually applied from ground-based equipment such as trucks. (2)

Aedes aegypti has been acquiring immunity in Thailand (3) to permethrin and even to DDT (which was banned in the US in 1972 after severe impacts such as almost driving our national bird into extinction); and similarly in Mexico (4) and, more recently, in Puerto Rico (5) and now Florida. (6)

As time goes on, scientists have to look farther up the pesticide chain—with further likely risks—to find more effective pesticides. This is not good news….

aerial spraying

read more and see end notes at Politics: A View from West Chester, 8/9/16