Posts Tagged ‘Pesticides’

Several readers e-mailed me regarding safety concerns of the vermiculite used in Mel’s Magic Mix, the soil-less potting mix used in raised bed gardens featured in the “All New Square Foot Gardening” book.

Author Mel Bartholomew addresses this issue on his Web site, www.squarefootgardening.com. Click on frequently asked questions (FAQ) and type “safety of vermiculite” in the search box. I also did a Google search and am satisfied it’s safe to use, but aspirating the dust can cause lung irritation and should be avoided.

Breathing in dust of any kind, whether it comes from vermiculite, peat moss, fertilizers or just topsoil is bad for your lungs. This is especially true if you’re asthmatic or have any kind of immune deficiency or lung issues.

So when pouring bagged materials, wear a paper facemask. They’re available at drugstores and are very inexpensive. A light spray of water over the material will cut the dust. Also, always work upwind of the product

Safety precautions should also be taken when working with liquids of any kind. Paper facemasks are not effective for use when spraying liquids. Fine vapors sift right through the material.

A professional-grade face respirator with replaceable filters is the only safe way to go any time you spray liquids, including fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides or pesticides. They are available in the paint departments of big-box stores. Remember, if you can smell the product you’re breathing it into your lungs.

Dust particulates and liquid vapors also cling to clothing, so the pros recommend wearing a protective covering. Those inexpensive white Tyvek coveralls are great for this purpose and can be reused many times. Priced under $10, they range in sizes from XS to XXL. Be sure to take them off and hang them up in the garage or potting shed before going into the house.

For hand protection, wear nitrile disposable gloves, very inexpensive and available at drugstores.

When messing with chemicals, wear waterproof boots and wash them with soap and water when finished. Also, take them off when entering the house so you don’t spread contaminants to carpets and upholstery.

The Rosemania catalog at www.rosemania.com, (888) 600-9665, carries a complete line of safety equipment at reasonable prices, and shipping is free for orders totaling more than $15.

Blog Alert! Be sure to check us out on Saturday for the first of the weekly “Nancy’s Tomato Chronicles”.  Timely tips and advice for having terrific tomatoes this year.


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Yardpost – If you left gasoline in the tanks of your lawn mower, string trimmer, or chain saw and the tool is out there in the unheated garage.  You might go out and start those engines and run them until they run out of gas.  This avoids a starting problem this spring.

The whole issue of the safety of pesticides used in the home landscape has, in my modest view, been pretty much ignored by the federal, state, and local governments in this country for the past 50 years.  In that time, all of the very expensive tests required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine the safety of a pesticide for consumers are directed towards the possibility of a pesticide compound causing cancer.

The reality, and this is a doozy, is that in fifty years there have probably not been a dozen cases of cancer suffered by a consumer, linked to any pesticide contact.  Cancer caused by pesticides only occurs among farm workers who are using it for very prolonged periods of time.  The guy spreading the pesticides on your lawn might get cancer, but you will not.

The true danger of pesticides for consumers is that they can cause serious allergenic incidents.  While the federal government is not keeping track, at least for public information, in that same fifty years there have been many deaths, mostly of children, reportedly caused by exposure to a pesticide sprayed on a lawn or in trees and shrubs.   There have been thousands of allergenic reactions suffered by consumers in that same period caused by exposure to a pesticide, usually within a day of its being applied to the home landscape.  There is no reporting mechanism to account for this problem at the local, state, or federal level of government.  It’s considered a private matter.

Pesticides are tested for potential effects on cancer primarily because scientists can measure cancer.  They do not test for impact on allergies, because there are no tests to measure the impact of a pesticide on allergies.  Allergies are far too complex to be measured in that way.  So the EPA ignores the potential impact of any pesticide on allergies, while allergies all along have been the real problem.

So here is the Catch-22.  Not only do we not know whether any pesticide sprayed on the home landscape will or will not cause an allergenic reaction, the vulnerability of Americans from allergy, especially young children, is going up at a scary rate.

When my son was born in 1965, he was diagnosed as being somewhat allergenic.  The doctor said between 5% and 10% of all babies born at that time would have that problem.  The figure now is something between 40% and 50% of all young children have some allergenic weakness, be it dust, peanuts, or airborne chemicals.  Most of these allergies are not life threatening, but since we don’t know about the impact of a freshly applied pesticide on the lawn, no one should allow their child on that lawn for at least 24 hours.

Then what about the allergenic child living down the street who comes to visit?  How do they know to stay away?  The answer is that they don’t.  The state law requires the pesticide applicators to place a 4 by 5 inch sign at the property’s entrance reporting that a pesticide has been applied.  If a kid can’t read or comes onto the lawn from the side, there is no way for that child to be warned.  I would like the law to be changed to require the pesticide applicator to surround the entire area that was sprayed with little red flags placed at every six feet or so.  Then kids could be trained to stay away from any property that has those red flags.

By the way, you pet owners should also take notice.  Most veterinarians know which of their clients subscribe to a lawn service which sprays pesticides on the lawn.  Their pets have skin irritations and allergies that are caused by those pesticides.  The rule again is to not let the kid or the pet out on to the grass for 24 hours.

With all this, let’s not get crazy.  If I spray my rose bush with a pyrethroid type pesticide such as Bonide’s Eight, do I keep the kids and pets inside for 24 hours?  No, because they don’t usually roll around in the rose bush.  I don’t use pesticides unless I really feel they are necessary to save a plant.  If I minimize my use of pesticides, this whole allergy problem disappears.  Now all I have to worry about is what my neighbors are doing.

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